Cord blood banking: Should you save stem cells from your baby’s umbilical cord?

Cord blood contains stem cells that can be used later to treat cancer and other serious health conditions.

For families with a history of certain cancers, storing a baby’s cord blood can be an attractive option. Is it right for you? And how do you go about it?

Cord blood contains stem cells that can be used if someone needs a bone marrow or stem cell transplant.

Stem cell transplants treat leukemia, lymphoma, some solid cancer tumors, sickle cell disease, some kinds of anemia, some metabolic disorders and more, according to Be The Match, the National Marrow Donor Program.

Learn more about whether cord blood banking is right for your family.

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How cord blood is saved

Shortly after a baby is born, a health care provider can remove blood containing stem cells from the umbilical cord and placenta. It is completely painless for mother and child. The blood is then stored at ultra-low temperatures, called cryopreservation, for up to 20 years.

The Family Link Cord Blood Storage Program at Norton Healthcare is a private bank started in 1998 for storing umbilical cord blood from newborns. It is available if your child requires a bone marrow or stem cell transplant later in life. It also may be used for immediate family members or friends who are a match — a one in four chance.

The cost of cryopreservation is $1,650, with a $125 annual cost for continued storage. Private cord blood collection and storage generally is not covered by health insurance.  If needed, the cost of obtaining cord blood from an unrelated donor can cost up to $35,000 (usually paid for by insurance).

There may be a blood collection fee charged separately by the physician. This should be discussed before enrollment in the program.