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Storing vs Donating Cord Blood: Pros and Cons

Being a parent is one of the most rewarding things in the world, but it can come with many challenges…especially if you’ve never done it before. If you are expecting your first child, let’s start by congratulating you on your growing family! It’s going to be a wonderful journey that’s unlike anything else in the […]

Being a parent is one of the most rewarding things in the world, but it can come with many challenges…especially if you’ve never done it before. If you are expecting your first child, let’s start by congratulating you on your growing family! It’s going to be a wonderful journey that’s unlike anything else in the world. But we know that it can also seem a little overwhelming–after all, it’s a brand-new experience filled with lots of changes and surprises!

From the moment you find out that you are pregnant, the journey begins; you will have to make lifestyle changes and important decisions that will play a role long after your baby is born. One of the biggest decisions you will ever make for your future son or daughter is whether or not you will choose to preserve or donate your baby’s valuable stem cells. It is a decision that must be made before the baby is born unless you plan on disposing of the stem-cell-rich umbilical cord and placental tissue. It’s a lot for a first-time expecting parent to think about (especially if you’ve never heard of it) but it’s important to understand all that’s involved, before making a decision.

So today, we want to lay everything out for first-time expectant parents who may want to know a bit more about storing or donating cord blood and the pros and cons of each option.

Understanding The Value Of Your Newborn’s Stem Cells

Although we are primarily focused on explaining the difference between storing and donating cord blood, we thought it would be helpful to know more about where the stem cells are collected from after childbirth.

Although all three sources of newborn stem cells provide a tremendous amount of possibilities, there are some differences when it comes down to the therapies that they can potentially be used for in the future.

  • Cord Blood – Cord blood is the stem cell-rich blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta immediately after your baby is born. Cord blood stem cells are incredibly powerful and unique. They can reproduce into red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout our bodies; white blood cells, which fight off infections; and platelets, which create clots preventing us from bleeding excessively. 
  • Cord Tissue –The umbilical cord tissue contains valuable stem cells that are different from those found in the cord blood. Cord tissue refers to the tissue inside the umbilical cord. There have been clinical trials that suggest cord tissue may be useful in certain stem cell therapies.
  • Placental Tissue – The placenta is responsible for transferring oxygen and nutrients between mother and baby during pregnancy, but it continues to provide benefits after giving birth. Stem cells from the placental tissue have tremendous potential for use in regenerative medicine.

Storing Cord Blood: Pros and Cons

Alright, so now that we have a better understanding of where your newborn’s stem cells are collected from, let’s discuss how storing with a private stem cell bank differs from donating to a public bank.

If you want to preserve your own baby’s stem cells for future use for your family, then you might want to consider a private stem cell bank. Private banks do charge storage fees, but they also allow you to access the stem cells for future medical uses if needed. Although cost and pricing can be deciding factors for some families, here are additional pros and cons that first-time expectant parents should consider:

Pros:

  • The stem cells collected from your baby will be available to your family for future medical use
  • You own the rights to your baby’s banked cord blood
  • A baby is a 100% match to their own stem cells, so if you do need it in the future, you won’t have to wait for a match…it will be ready whenever it is needed
  • As new stem cell treatments emerge each year, storing your baby’s cord blood is a wonderful way to protect your family’s health and future

Cons:

  • They might not be used if your family doesn’t need them
  • Storage fees

Donating Cord Blood: Pros and Cons

Now let’s take a look at the key differences of donating your baby’s cord blood to a public bank (rather than a private bank). Since the cord blood will be given as a donation, it does not cost anything to the family and could potentially help save someone else’s life down the line. Although those are the main selling points for public donation, let’s take a closer look at some additional pros and cons:

Pros:

  • There are no costs to the parents who wish to donate their newborn’s cord blood
  • Stem cells get stored in a public bank and are available to anyone who needs them
  • Public banks make it possible for individuals who need a stem cell transplant to search for matches outside of their family

Cons:

  • May not be available in all states
  • Even through donation, your baby’s cord blood may not be used for future transplantation. In the United States, nearly 80% of all publicly donated cord blood is discarded
  • Once your baby’s stem cells are donated, you no longer own them and therefore cannot access them in the future (if your family needs them)
  • If in the future you, your child, or a family member does require a stem cell transplant, it can be very costly to transport the stored cord blood to a medical facility. For example, if a match is located, it can cost up to $50,000 for each retrieved cord blood unit that comes from a public bank.

Conclusion

Making the decision to store or donate your newborn’s stem cells is entirely up to you, but it’s a decision that should be made at least 4-5 months before your delivery date. One of the biggest factors for families comes down to cost and that is why it’s crucial to do your research and know that there are affordable options out there, if you want to store with a private stem cell bank like AlphaCord. In fact, AlphaCord offers various storage fee options that include low monthly rates for those who may not be able to afford a one-time payment.

However, if you don’t want to spend any money at all, then public donation is still a better option than disposing of the umbilical cord and placental tissue after birth–after all, they are rich in stem cells that can potentially save the life of someone else who has a life-threatening disease.

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Closeup of a couple embracing the mother’s pregnant belly.