I bet you didn’t know that July is “Cord Blood Awareness Month”. If you are getting ready to have a baby, or recently had a baby, this subject has probably been on your mind and you may have gotten a lot of different opinions regarding the banking of cord blood.

Cord blood stem cells were first used in transplant medicine in 1988 to reconstitute the blood and immune system of a patient with a form of serious familial anemia. Over the last several decades cord blood stem cells have been used in the pediatric population to treat certain cancers, as well as other blood and immune system conditions.

The practice of collecting umbilical cord blood for storage is now available by both private cord blood banks as well as public cord banks. The “question” is, should a parent spend hard earned dollars (up to several thousand) to bank their baby’s blood, just “in case” there is ever a serious illness which might require a stem cell transfusion. It is a difficult question. Every parent wants to give their unborn child the best!

In an article published in 2009 in the journal Pediatrics, Dr. Steven Joffe from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute states that “the chance that privately banked cord blood will be used is quite small.” There are certain instances when a known family member may be a candidate for a stem cell transplant.  But again, these situations are infrequent and are known about before the cord blood is even collected. Out of thousands of stem cell transplants, pediatric hematologists and oncologists report only 9 patients who received their own cord blood stem cells.

So, what does the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend?   The AAP recommends that parents donate their child’s cord blood to a public bank or to the National Marrow Foundation. By doing this you will ensure that your baby’s umbilical cord stem cells might benefit any number of people who would be a match. At the same time you the parent do not have to pay handling and storage fees.

I posed this question to several of my hematologist oncologist friends who are young and just starting families. They care for children with cancers and other blood disorders on a daily basis. Guess what, none of them have spent money to bank their own children’s umbilical cord blood!! They too agree that if they ever needed stem cells for their own family members that they would look to the public cord blood banks.

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.