Tuesday, June 1, 2010

To cord or not to cord? A long and maybe boring post

As we get further along in the pregnancy, we're running up against some major decisions on our baby to-do list, and one of those is whether or not we want to bank our baby's umbilical cord blood. There is a lot of research going on right now involving the stem cells found in cord blood and its potential uses in treating a myriad of very devastating and possibly deadly illnesses. Sounds like a slam-dunk decision, right?

Unfortunately, I'm an over-thinker (what?? who knew??). And right now, a lot of the logical points of this decision are pointing towards No. But then there's the emotional side of the argument that says if there's a chance this decision could make a life-changing difference in the health of my little one, shouldn't I go for it?

Here are my arguments against banking my baby's cord blood:

1) It's pretty crazy expensive. Most of the cord blood banks charge upwards of $2,000 to enroll and process the blood, and then you pay a storage fee of $125-$150+ per year. The banks recommend that you store the blood until the baby turns 18, so you're looking at several thousand more dollars.

2) It's a gamble that the scientists will even a) find a use for the blood and b) be ready to use it if my baby needs it. Right now you're saving and storing the blood solely in the hopes that if your baby needs it, there will be a use for it. You're also gambling on the varied risks that your child will actually get any of these diseases, which are pretty low to begin with...not that that makes it any less devastating if your child were to develop any of these conditions.

3) Pretty much all of the diseases that are front-runners for this research have no history in either of our families, including the types of cancer.

4) For some of the diseases that are getting the most attention, it seems like it's actually better to NOT use your baby's own blood to treat them. You would be better off to try to be matched in the blood donor system and use donated blood cells to try to treat the disease.

5) Call me a cynic, but the cord blood centers have spent a LOT of time, energy and money to promote themselves and their services. And they are extremely competitive with each other. It seems like several times a week, there's some kind of pamphlet in the mailbox, every other doctor appointment includes some kind of promotional flyer about it, there are posters in the doctors' office, full page ads run in almost every pregnancy magazine, elaborate websites are set up...if it was such a slam-dunk decision, why would they need to spend millions of dollars convincing me?

Right now, and especially looking at factors 4 and 5, I am leaning towards one of the lesser-known options and looking into donating the cord blood. To me, it seems like everyone would be better off if more and more people started donating this blood. We'd build up the supplies for researchers, we'd boost potential donor matches for kids who currently have an actual need for these cells, and we could help diminish the power of the marketing dollars. I'm sure the cord blood centers are still making a nice profit by selling the donated blood, but at least they aren't making thousands of dollars by preying on the emotional and protective fears of soon-to-be-parents. Again, call me a cynic, but that's pretty much what they're doing.

We've still got a few more weeks to decide (although not many! 3rd trimester is right around the corner), and there's still a small part of me that is worried something will happen and I will regret not banking the blood. So...thoughts and opinions are welcome!!


Caitlin Scannell said...

Out of curiosity....

If you decided to not use the cord blood because of the research you've done and the cost, are there programs out there where you can donate the cord blood free of charge to potentially help other babies?

Sarah said...

yup, there is- I talk about it in the blog post :-)

Caitlin Scannell said...

Oh. ha. oops! I clearly didn't read very thoroughly.

Janet said...

Is this blood that is recovered and stored after the baby gets what she needs out of the umbilical cord? The cord isn't supposed to be tied and cut until it stops pulsing because of the antibodies + benefits the baby gets from it.

Janet said...

I like the idea of donating it. If she ever needs blood, I'm O-!

Nicole said...

As soon as I started reading this, my first thought was that this blood should be donated. I am all about the research being done and I feel you're exactly right - if more people had the 'donation' mindset, there would be a higher pool with more variables for them to test and conduct more research and help more people. Plus - you made the point already - you could save this and spend thousands of dollars to keep it and then not even be able to use it if (heaven forbid) something did go wrong.

I clearly have no idea what it's like to actually be going through this since I am far away from pregnancy, so take my thoughts for what they are =)