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What is Umbilical Cord Blood Banking and How Much Does It Cost?

An umbilical cord blood bank is simply a place where cord blood (short for Umbilical Cord Blood) is stored. Cord blood banking is a simple and painless procedure that could save lives. Immediately after birth, cord blood is harvested — or removed from the clamped-off umbilical cord. Then, it is frozen and stored (or “banked”) in a cord blood Bank for future use.

Cord blood is known to contain all the same components as normal blood, including red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma. However, what makes it special is that it’s also rich in hematopoietic stem cells — special blood-forming stem cells that are similar to those found in a bone marrow.

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Although umbilical cord blood banking recently started garnering more attention, it isn’t new. Cord blood has been harvested and collected to treat serious illnesses right from the 1980s. And experts are steadily looking to learn how it might help with a growing number of diseases and disorders.

Cord blood is known to be quite rich in special hematopoietic stem cells that aren’t found in blood from other parts of the body. Most cells are only able to make copies of themselves! (For instance, some brain cells can only make copies of cells found in the brain.) But these cord blood stem cells are different. Especially since they haven’t fully matured, and are able to develop into different types of blood and immune-system cells.

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These powerful cells play a very crucial role in treating many life-threatening diseases. They can help someone who is sick and in need of a stem transplant now or in the near future.

According to experts, cord blood stem cells are involved in treating over 80 diseases. Notably, they’re used in treatments for cancers like leukaemia and lymphoma, inherited immune system and immune-cell disorders, sickle cell disease and anaemia, and gaucher disease, but they can also be helpful in treating other immune, blood and neurological disorders.

Transplanting cord blood stem cells into patients undergoing cancer treatments tend to help their bodies produce new blood cells that can in turn improve their health.

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Cord blood collection happens immediately after delivery. After cutting and clamping the umbilical cord, the doctor or a hospital staff member will use a needle to draw blood from the umbilical cord vein. The blood is collected in a bag and sent off for processing, freezing and storage.

How Much Does it Cost to Store Umbilical Cord Blood

Note there are two types of cord blood banking. Public banking, for instance, is a free donation that gives access to your baby’s stem cells to anyone who needs them. The cost of using publicly-sourced cord blood in stem cell transplantation is significant, but because it is a medical procedure, it’s usually partly covered by health insurance.

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But private cord blood banking is an investment made toward your family’s future health. There is an initial cost for processing, and many banks charge annual fees for continued storage. Also note that upfront, discounted long-term storage charges are often available. Even though private banking is more expensive, only your family has access to these cells, so you can always use them for a medical treatment.

There are various costs associated with storing your child’s cord blood privately, such as enrolment and processing fees and costs for annual storage. Note that properly understanding these costs will help you make an informed decision when choosing a bank. Even though comparing prices for cord blood banks may seem straightforward, parents need to be aware of things that are included and all other additional charges that may apply. Private cord blood banking costs typically include the following:

  1. Enrolment, collection and processing fees

Enrolment fees are more or less due once you sign your banking contract and cover all administrative work. Note that collection and processing fees cover laboratory work for your child’s cord blood and are paid up front with your enrolment fees.

  1. Shipping fees

Also known as “courier fees,” some banks have one-time costs for shipping cord blood to the labs. Although normally a flat-rate fee, some facilities tend to charge based on location. Always make sure to ask your bank for a total shipping estimate from your baby’s hospital.

  1. Yearly Storage Fees

Note that for most banks, storage fees are charged every year cord blood is kept in cryo-preservation. Have it in mind that some banks offer discounted pre-paid storage plans for a set amount of years—on average, these plans cover a 20-year term. Also note that these plans can be harder to compare because of the different terms available. It is very pertinent to consider the stability of the cord blood bank and its lab when pre-paying for long-term storage that it might not be able to guarantee.

  1. Retrieval Fees

Also realize that banks charge retrieval fees when customers need to retrieve their cord blood for use in a transplantation or research. However, part of the cost is associated with the liquid nitrogen–filled cryo-shipper in which the cord blood must be stored during transportation.

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How to Start Banking Umbilical Cord Blood in the United States

As parents, it always falls on us to know what is best for our children and the whole family. You are always looking to give them the best life possible – educating them, protecting them, and showing them how to enjoy life to the fullest. That is why, when parents hear about cord blood banking and the health benefits it can offer to both their children and their family, they are immediately eager to learn more. Below are steps to take if you’re looking to store cord blood in the United States.

  1. Choose A Cord Blood Banking Company

Although the first step should be making your research, but let’s assume you already know everything there is about cord blood banking. So if you are already knowledgeable on the topic of cord blood banking, it is then time to choose which bank you will store your baby’s cord blood with. Note that some very crucial factors come to play when analysing the services each bank offers, the bank’s success rate and reviews, and the cost of banking and the pricing plans offered. Always consider what each bank has to offer so that you are sure you are making the best decision for your family.

  1. Sign Up & Receive Kit

After you must have done all your research and have decided on a bank, the next step is to sign up. Most times, this step is relatively easy! Some banks offer online enrolment by call, mail or even through their website. Most banks also provide you with a Cord Blood Specialist to assist you with any questions you have. They can also walk you through the process of signing up.

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After you must have enrolled, you will receive a collection kit. Most time this kit includes instructions for the parents, instructions for your healthcare providers, and a data collection sheet along with cord blood, cord tissue, and placenta tissue collection materials. Everything you need ought to be in the box.

  1. Have Your Baby

At this point, you will have to grab your hospital bag (with you collection kit packed!) and head to the hospital to have your baby! Once the cord blood is collected, the medical courier will be called to pick it up and deliver accordingly. They will pick up your kit and bring it to the prescribed lab. Don’t panic – your baby’s stem cells are viable for up to 72 hours.

  1. Take Baby Home

Once the cord blood has been collected and stored, you can bring your new bundle of joy home with the confidence that you have taken steps to ensure a healthier life for your baby and growing family. Note that your baby’s cord blood will remain safely in the bank lab you to use should you ever need it.

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The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the American Academy of Paediatrics don’t recommend routine cord blood storage. The groups’ note that private banks should only be used when there’s a sibling with a medical condition who could benefit from the stem cells. Families are encouraged to donate stem cells to a public bank to help others. However, if you choose to bank your baby’s cord blood, there’s one more thing to keep in mind: It’s best not to make it a last-minute decision. You should coordinate with the bank before your baby is born so nothing is left to chance.