Friday, May 11, 2007

A frugal way to bank your baby's cord blood

If you've read a parenting magazine targeted at expecting moms recently, you've no doubt seen page after page of ads for umbilical cord blood banks touting the benefits of storing your child's cord blood so the stem cells can be harvested later on should your kid develop a scary disease like leukemia or sickle cell disease.

Cord blood banks freeze blood remaining in the umbilical cord after the birth of a baby. Stem cells in the cord blood are then used for research and treatment of cancer and certain blood diseases. The odds are slim, however, that your child will actually need the banked blood, and the peace of mind you might get from knowing it's available 'just in case' isn't cheap.

Via Vancouver Dad:
First of all, the price tag for freezing cord blood is about $1,000 CDN, plus an extra $120 or more per year to keep it frozen in liquid nitrogen. Second, there are very few private cord blood banks in Canada. Third, there’s only a one in 20,000 chance a given child would ever need to use his own cord blood in the future.
One alternative, which I unfortunately didn't find out about until it was too late in my pregnancy, is to register with Canada's only public cord blood bank. Instead of indulging in an expensive and somewhat selfish storage plan, registering with the public bank allows your baby's cord blood to be available to any Canadian child who needs those stem cells. While the odds are slim your baby will need to use that cord blood, they're pretty good that someone's baby will benefit from you taking a minute to fill out those forms. Best of all, it's free to participate.

Despite the potential for disease treatment, cord blood is thrown away after birth unless you arrange to store it well in advance of your baby's birth. If you want to do it, you need to submit the forms by your 34th week of pregnancy. Unfortunately, I didn't learn about the existence of the program until my childbirth class instructor mentioned it, and I was already too far along to participate. I'm going to keep it in mind for any future babies though!

In my opinion, organ and cord blood donations should be on an opt-out, not an opt-in basis. I think the public good of having more donations available for those who need treatment should outweigh the squeamishness some of us have when thinking about such things. For those who are adamantly opposed to donating their organs or their baby's umbilical cord after birth, it should be no problem to fill out a form saying so.

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