The Facts About Umbilical Cord Blood Banking

Umbilical cord blood banking has been around since the 1980s. Recently, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists developed a committee to review the procedure and update their recommendations on whether or not OB-Gyns should recommend umbilical cord blood banking to their patients. We reviewed ACOG’s new recommendations and want to share that information with you, as expectant mothers frequently ask us about umbilical cord banking. Whether you’re familiar with the umbilical cord blood banking or are hearing about it for the first time, we want to make sure that you’re educated on the procedure.

What Is Umbilical Cord Blood Banking?

After a baby is born, there is some blood that stays in the umbilical cord and placenta. Usually, the cord blood is just discarded, but some parents may elect to have a blood banking procedure done to preserve it.

Why Is Blood Banking Done?

The cord blood has been shown to contain hematopoietic stem cells that have the potential to help save lives. For example, it has been shown to have advantages over bone marrow and peripheral stem cells during stem cell transplants. Cord blood also reduces the risk of any reaction from the host of a transplant.

Parents may elect to have their child’s cord blood “banked” or preserved because they are hoping to have it available should their child become sick in the future, or parents may elect to donate their child’s cord blood to a public bank to potentially help others.

What Is Done with the Blood Once It’s Collected?

After the blood is collected from the cord, it’s taken and stored in a bank. There are two kinds of banks that have emerged over the past 30 years: public banks and private banks.

Private banks are for-profit organizations that charge their customers to store cord blood for personal use. They also don’t guarantee that the blood will be used for the same patient whose blood they have or their family members.

Public banks are usually federally or privately funded, so there’s no cost to customers who choose a public organization. However, they don’t allow individuals to store cord blood for personal use. Instead, they open up their storage to be used by all individuals who need cord blood for transplants or other procedures.

What Are ACOG’s Recommendations?

A large part of ACOG’s review of blood banking focused on the importance of reviewing and informing patients of the differences between private and public banks. While these two types of blood banks are funded differently and use their stores for personal vs. public use, both must be registered with the FDA. They both also have to meet high standards of donor screening, infectious disease testing, and FDA tissue-handling requirements. But despite these high standards at both organizations, patients still need to understand the different purposes of private and public banks.

Here are ACOG’s recommendations on private vs. public banks from this year’s committee opinion:

  • Umbilical cord blood collected from a neonate cannot be used to treat a genetic disease or malignancy in that same individual (autologous transplant) because stored cord blood contains the same genetic variant or premalignant cells that led to the condition being treated.
  • The routine collection and storage of umbilical cord blood with a private cord blood bank is not supported by the available evidence.
  • The current indications for umbilical cord blood transplantation are limited to select genetic, hematologic, and malignant disorders.
  • Private umbilical cord blood banking may be considered when there is knowledge of a family member with a medical condition (malignant or genetic) who could potentially benefit from cord blood transplantation.
  • Public umbilical cord blood banking is the recommended method of obtaining umbilical cord blood for use in transplantation, immune therapies, or other medically validated indications.
  • Families of all ethnicities and races should consider the societal benefit of public umbilical cord blood donation to increase the availability of matched cord blood units for people of all backgrounds.
  • Obstetrician-gynecologists and other obstetric care providers should be aware of state and local laws regarding umbilical cord blood banking, including the law in some states that require physicians to inform patients about umbilical cord blood banking options.
  • Health care providers with a financial interest in private umbilical cord blood banking should disclose these interests, incentives, or other potential conflicts of interest.
  • If a patient requests information about umbilical cord blood banking, balanced and accurate information regarding the advantages and disadvantages of public and private umbilical cord blood banking should be provided.
  • A variety of circumstances may arise during the process of labor and delivery that may preclude adequate collection.
  • Umbilical cord blood collection should not compromise obstetric or neonatal care or alter the routine practice of delayed umbilical cord clamping with the rare exception of medical indications for directed donation.
  • It is important to inform patients that the medical condition of the woman or neonate may prevent adequate umbilical cord blood collection.

What do AWHC’s doctors think about cord blood banking?

Our doctors at A Woman’s Healing Center will support you in your birth choices so long as they will ensure a positive outcome for both mother and baby.  If umbilical cord blood banking is important to you, we will work with you to make a plan for that procedure post-delivery, however, it is important to know that we support ACOG’s opinion that research does not show any advantages of umbilical cord blood banking.

We care about our mothers-to-be and don’t want them to get taken advantage of by companies trying to make money without evidence to support their claims.  If you’re considering cord blood banking, we recommend that you ask lots of questions and review all available recommendations from reputable sources.

How Do I Learn More About Umbilical Cord Blood Banking?

If you want to know more about cord blood, the private vs. public banks, and information on the use of cord blood, you can click here to see ACOG’s full committee opinion. You can also reach out to us to talk more about the procedure. We’re happy to help you learn more and answer any questions that you might have.  Call us at 970-419-1111 to schedule an appointment.

Below is a PDF patient fact sheet on umbilical cord blood banking from ACOG.

acog patient information sheet on umbilical cord blood banking