The Costly Truth About Cord Blood Banking

If you’re pregnant or have recently had a baby, it’s likely you’ve been advised of the potential benefits of preserving your baby’s umbilical cord blood. With all of the life saving possibilities, what loving parent wouldn’t jump at the chance? While most parents immediate answer is “Yes, of course! Why risk it?”—things change once they see the hefty price tag that comes along with the process. Which raises a highly ethical question…

If cord blood banking is such a great idea, is it fair that only those who can afford it will have a chance at saving their baby’s life? Most people think not.

Though the cord blood banking process has been around since 1995, the benefits, until recently, were not entirely known. Today, we know that cord blood has the potential to cure over 80 life-threatening diseases including a wide-range of cancers, genetic diseases, immune system deficiencies, and blood disorders. Currently, there are emerging stem cell treatments for cerebral palsy, brain injuries and diabetes. So just how much is it to save your baby’s cord blood?

The price at ViaCord begins at $1,500 just for collection of the cord blood and then $95 a year for storage. Since the blood is saved for up to 21 years, the total cost would be about $3,500, unless you prepay for storage, which can save you up to $500.

The Cord Blood Registry has similar pricing, with a $1,290 enrollment and processing fee and then a $95 a year storage fee. Although you can save some money here too if you prepay for storage.

While the claims are true that a bone marrow transplant using your child’s cord blood stem cells could save their life, the actual chances that you would have to use their stem cells is only about 1 in 2,700. And, for every 2,700 umbilical cord stem cells saved, only 1 would potentially be used.

But let’s face it: when it comes to your baby’s life—any chance is worth taking! And many parents are left feeling guilty that they don’t have the funds to take that 1 out of 2,700 chance.

Thankfully, there is a program called the Sibling Donor Cord Blood Program at Children’s Hospital of Oakland where you can bank your child’s umbilical cord blood for free if you meet their eligibility requirements. Requirements include having a child with a transplantable condition, having a child with a prenatal diagnosis of a transplantable condition, or if your unborn child is at high risk for a having a transplantable condition.

If you decide not to bank your child’s stem cells for your own use, you might consider donating them. It is possible to donate your child’s cord blood for free if you live near one of the National Marrow Donor Program Cord Blood Banks in 14 states in the United States, including Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington. You could save a child’s life.

Should parents feel guilty about not being able to afford cord blood banking?

And is it fair that only those who can afford it will have a chance at saving their baby’s life—while others simply won’t?

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