Medically reviewed by
Dr. Nicolette Natale
Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
Umbilical cord blood is the blood that remains in a baby's umbilical cord, and the placenta after the cord is cut after birth. The stem cells from cord blood could help those who are sick, now or in the future, and can be banked for future use. Ahead, learn more about cord blood banking and the difference between public and private cord blood banking.
The umbilical cord is rich with powerful hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). Stem cells have the potential to develop into many types of cells. A baby's HSCs are so potent because they are a 100% genetic match, meaning they may also have the power to treat family members. Cord blood stem cells can treat over 80+ diseases.
Cord blood collection is a painless and quick procedure. After the baby is delivered, the umbilical cord is cut and clamped. After the umbilical cord has been cut, the blood is collected using a small needle and then stored in a sterile blood bag. The blood is then sent to a lab and tested for infectious diseases. If any of the tests are positive, the blood is discarded. If everything looks good, The cord blood can be used for research or preserved for use in a stem cell transplant later on.
There are two types of banks for the collection and storage of umbilical cord blood: public and private banks. During delivery, you are also given the option to not bank at all.
A baby's cord blood can be donated to a public cord blood bank, where it's stored for use by anyone in the public who may need a stem cell treatment or for medical research. Donating cord blood is free, and the banks pay for collection and storage.
When choosing public cord blood donation, you sign away all rights. The public cord blood bank now owns the blood, which means there's no certainty that it will be available to your family if you need it in the future.
The easiest way to donate publicly is to deliver your baby in a hospital that works with the National Marrow Donor Program. You can confirm that your hospital works with the National Marrow Donor Program using the database on Be The Match. You can use the list on Parent's Guide to Cord Blood Foundation if your hospital doesn't participate.
To donate publically, you need to meet specific eligibility requirements. If you're generally healthy and have only one baby (not pairs or multiples), you are most likely able to donate. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine if you are eligible.
One downside to public banking is that match rates vary from 77% to 23% depending on ethnicity and race, so you may not be able to find the right match should you need it.
Alternatively, parents can pay to privately bank their baby's umbilical cord and/or placenta for their own use or use by a family member. In private cord blood banks, the family owns the exclusive rights to their cord blood and can make a personal decision about how it's used for their family or otherwise. Often, parents choose to save their baby's umbilical cord and/or placenta to future-proof their families health--a type of health insurance, if you will.
Stem cell therapy is becoming a game changer in medicine. Stem cell therapies currently treat 80+ medical conditions. With each new experiment and trial, the capabilities of stem cells are growing. Private umbilical cord blood banking means that you'll guarantee genetically unique cells available to your family as these treatments become more readily available.
If you choose to bank your cord blood privately, you'll want to research to find the right bank for you. Most private cord blood banks use cryopreservation, where cord blood units are frozen in liquid nitrogen at as low as -190°C.
Private banking comes with an associated cost for collection and storage, including monthly or annual storage fees. Anja Health's pricing for placenta and umbilical cord blood banking is 35% less expensive than the industry average.
Your healthcare practitioner can help you weigh your options and determine if private banking is the right choice for your family.
All collected units of umbilical cord blood in private or public banks must adhere to rigorous standards of infectious disease testing outlined by the U.S Food and Drug Administration. The FDA regulates umbilical cord blood differently depending on the source and the intended use. Still, both private and public banks must register with the FDA and comply with its tissue-handling requirements. Cord blood intended for personal use does not require FDA approval. Still, an unrelated donor must meet additional FDA requirements before use.
Generally, a private bank like Anja Health is a way for expectant parents to store their baby's umbilical cord blood for the child or other family members.