Jump straight to the answer: The cost of cord blood banking for initial processing and collection fees ranges from $1,500 to $2,850 — an average of $2000, according to AAP. The annual storage fee ranges between $100 to $400.
New or expectant parents preparing for the birth of their baby face many financial decisions. In recent years, what to do with the newborn's cord blood has become part of such a decision. Cord blood drawn from the newborn's umbilical cord is an abundant source of stem cells helpful in treating over 70 diseases, including leukemia and anemia. Usually, after birth, the new parents have three options — discard the cord blood, donate to a public cord blood bank or store it in a private cord blood bank.
For such a life-saving commodity, it makes sense to store it in a private cord blood bank where it's readily accessible if the child or a family member develops medical or health issues that might need it. Nevertheless, most parents' decisions are influenced by the overall cost of the cord blood bank. Private cord blood banks are expensive, and the process is confusing, leaving most parents wondering if it's worth the hassle.
Benzinga looks at cord blood banking costs, explaining how these expenses impact new parents and how affordable they can be.
How Much Does Cord Blood Banking Cost?
When you donate to a public cord blood bank, you do not pay any money. They're nonprofit centers funded by the federal government and private organizations. Ultimately public banks are very affordable, and the cord blood you donate can be used for anybody needing a transplant. However, being government-funded means cord blood donated here passed through a stringent evaluation process before storage.
The significance is that your donation may be discarded along the line if it fails any of the evaluation processes. While it offers a great choice, it's not ideal if you're saving cord blood for personal use exclusively — in which case you need a private bank. Private cord blood banks are profit-oriented and therefore costly. The initial processing and collection fees range from $1,500 to $2,850 — an average of $2000, according to AAP. The annual storage fee ranges between $100 to $400. These fees vary among banks and can significantly increase if you store placenta and umbilical tissues alongside the cord blood.
Furthermore, your length of storage also influences the fees — a more extended period means a lower overall charge. A few banks can waive all or some of the prices if you have a relative who can benefit from the banked cell. Additionally, you may have to pay for the initial collecting kit, processing fees and courier services that may run into several hundreds of dollars.
Public cord banks are subjected to more stringent regulatory requirements than private cord blood banks and so spend more money on processing.
Where to go for Cord Blood Banking
How Does Cord Blood Banking Work?
From collections to the actual storage, the entire process of cord blood banking is not complex. Let's review how cord blood banking works. Suppose you're an expectant parent that wishes to store your baby's cord blood. In that case, you must inform your OB-GYN (birthing professional) or your healthcare team in your potential birthing hospital six weeks before your delivery date. The idea is to enable them order special equipment (collecting kits), assuming they don't have them available. Also, you’ll ensure that all your paperwork for the collection is finalized before the date.
Immediately after delivery, your birthing professional clamps and cuts the umbilical cord. And using a needle, an assistant (midwife) draws blood out of the cord and places it in a designated bag. This extraction process happens fast — a little less than 10 minutes and involves no contact with the infant. The drawn blood is then sent via courier to your chosen cord blood bank.
The main action starts once the cord blood reaches the laboratory of your chosen cord blood bank. In line with U.S. federal law, public and private cord blood banks are required to test the infant mother's blood for infectious disease. Usually, infectious disease screening is more rigorous in public banks. It is similar to the test carried out when you donate blood.
Next, the cord blood is processed, separating the blood component bearing the stem cell. Here, the end product has a volume of 25mL and includes a cryoprotectant that prevents the blood from bursting while frozen. Samples are subsequently taken for quality testing — this involves measuring the number of positive blood cells for the CD34 marker. CD34 is a protein used to estimate the number of blood-forming stem cells in a sample.
Furthermore, banks measure the number of nucleated blood cells present before and after processing. In essence, this is another measure of stem cells that helps determine the cell recovery rate. Subsequently, a fungal and bacteria check is done to guard against contamination. Public banks will also execute a CFU assay to assess the sample's ability to grow new cells. After completing all the processing and testing, the cord blood stem cells are subsequently frozen in cryogenic nitrogen freezers at -196°C pending request for a patient therapy. To guarantee stem cell viability, public and private banks must process and store the cord blood 48 hours and 72 hours respectively after collection. Public banks also perform "HLA typing," helpful in matching transplant patients with donors, further adding to their bottom lines.
To save costs, public banks use a cell counting machine to determine valuable donations for processing. Only collections with at least 1.5 billion nucleated cells are cleared for onward processing. Nevertheless, they must also bear the cost of the discarded collections.
Benefits of Cord Blood Banking
Stored in a private bank, your infant's cord blood stored can benefit them, their siblings or close family members. Stored in public institutions, stem cells from the cord blood can be a lifesaver for people with cancer, anemia, leukemia and certain immunological or metabolic conditions, according to the Health Resources & Services Administration. Let's review some of the benefits of stem cells from cord blood banking.
Cord blood is rich in hematopoietic stem cells. While most cells in our body can only make copies of themselves, hematopoietic stem cells found in the cord blood can mature into different blood cell types (red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets) in the body. Regenerative medicine focuses on developing new methods or approaches to repair, replace or regrow disease or damaged organs and tissue. Regenerative medicine leverages hematopoietic stem cells to help those parts of the body incapable of regenerating themselves to heal or regain functionality.
Hematopoietic stem cells, therefore, provide medical answers to injuries, diseases and ailments that other forms of medicine may not address. Storing the cord blood in a bank makes sense for easy accessibility. Your child can use their cord blood even much later in life if severe medical conditions require it. Additionally, it can be used by a relative. There's a significant probability of finding a potential match for transfusion or transplant within stem cells from the same bloodline.
Blood Type Matching
In certain critical situations, accessibility to stem cells from your infant's cord blood can be the difference between having a match and not having one. So while it may seem unreasonably expensive at the moment, banking your infant cord blood is insurance that can pay off later in life.
For instance, say your child got diagnosed with cancer in later life; naturally, they'll undergo chemotherapy. The downside to chemotherapy is that while the radiation destroys the cancerous cells, it may also damage healthy cells. Those damaged cells can regenerate with stem cells from the stored cord blood in the bank.
When you donate your child's cord blood to a public bank, the stem cell from it can also be used to save another life if the patient's s human leukocyte antigen (a protein) matches closely with the stem cell from your child's umbilical cord.
Minimizes Disease Reintroduction
When banked, cord blood can serve as a clean source of stem cells. Suppose a cancer patient uses their stem cell to repopulate damaged cells after chemotherapy. In that case, there's a risk of reintroducing the cancerous cells into the bloodstream. However, using stem cells from cord blood stored in the bank in infancy eliminates this risk since it got stored before the cancer started.
Graft vs. Host Disease
When a transplant is carried out using a donor stem cell, the body sometimes perceive it as a foreign invader and try to fight against it rather than fighting the disease together. However, by using the person's stem cells from cord blood stored in the bank, the body can fight the disease more effectively instead of trying to fight the transplant. The same thing applies to stem cells from the same family bloodline as the body recognizes them as its own.
The potential benefits of stem cells exceed what's currently known. The future of health looks promising as scientists try to unravel more applications of stem cells further.
When Should Parents Consider Cord Blood Banking?
Suppose you or your close family member is at risk of specific health or medical conditions treatable with cord blood. In that case, it might be a worthwhile investment to collect your infant's cord blood immediately after delivery and save it in a private cord blood bank. Such health conditions encompass sickle cell anemia, lymphoma, cerebral palsy, Krabbe disease, Sanfilippo syndrome and immune deficiency disease. Cord blood from the umbilical cord contains immature hematopoietic stem cells that can help to treat over 70 diseases.
You can also decide to donate your infant's cord blood to a public cord blood bank, which is an excellent way of making an impact as your donation may save someone's life. Either way, once you've decided to bank your infant's blood, you must inform your birthing professional. Usually, your third trimester of pregnancy is the period when you need to learn about cord blood banking.
If you're going for the private cord blood bank storage, do your due diligence within this period and decide which private banks suit your budget profile. Private cord blood banks are expensive and may not be affordable for you if you're in a low-income bracket, especially considering that you also have to worry about baby essentials and other substantial infant expenditures. With the current economic condition, it'll be relatively hard to get a private bank that charges below $1,500. The average cost is currently over $2,000 plus an annual storage fee of between $100 to $400.
These fees can add significantly to your first-year expenditures for your baby. When you also factor in miscellaneous expenses you may make during the process, you may spend more than a couple of thousand dollars. Nevertheless, cord blood banking is an excellent investment that may benefit you, your child or your close family during medical emergencies in the future. With early planning, sound budgeting and adequate research, you won't regret it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it worth it to bank cord blood?
Despite the high cost of banking your infant’s cord blood, it is a worthy investment that can benefit the child, you or your close family in the future.
How much does a cord blood transplant cost?
Stem cell therapy ranges from a little less than $5,000 for a simple procedure to over $25,000 for a more complex or advanced process.