There are two kinds of cord blood storage facilities: public cord blood banks and private cord blood banks. These facilities perform the same basic function of providing a safe place to store precious donated umbilical cord blood for possible use in future stem cell transplants. There are a couple of very important differences between the two though that are important to understand.
First, what is the same?
The physical process of collecting the cord blood is basically the same. In both cases the umbilical cord will be clamped, cut and the blood drained into a sterile container. From there the blood is transported to a blood bank where it will be cryogenically frozen in nitrogen at a temperature of roughly -190⁰ Celsius. At such a low temperature all molecular movement ceases thus ensuring the ability to use the blood in the future for an indefinite amount of time.
What’s the difference between the two options? The first major difference is the future availability of the umbilical cord blood to the baby, or family member who may need a genetically-matched donor for a cord blood transplant.
With a public cord blood bank, the child and family will be given no future access to the child’s donated blood. Once the blood has been processed within a couple of days after collection, the donor’s information is deleted as a matter of privacy, as with any other donated organ. This is important to consider if your family has a history of genetic disorders or diseases where stem cell transplants have been found to be an effective treatment.
If there is a chance that the child will need the blood later in life, or if a family member is in need of a transplant. You should consider using a private cord blood bank. Using a private cord blood bank ensures that your family will always have access to the blood, that you will be able to retrieve it whenever necessary, and that it will be a genetic match to your child.
Going the private cord blood banking route will cost you though. Private cord blood banks on average charge between $1,000-$2,000 up front, in addition to monthly storage fees that can be in the $60-$100+ range. Alternatively, using a public cord blood bank is entirely free.
Public cord blood banks are a great option if you are simply interested in making a donation that can help save someone’s life. These donations go towards helping people with leukemia and other possibly terminal conditions. It is for this reason that you can donate your baby’s cord blood free of charge. It is important to note though that not all hospitals are affiliated with a public cord blood bank. You can check that though by simply asking your doctor. In the case that your hospital is not affiliated with a public cord blood bank, you will have to contact one and work out a way for them to collect the blood, again, free of charge.
It is also worth noting that the requirements of a public cord blood bank are usually a bit more stringent than those of a private cord blood bank, as the cord blood is destined for a wider range of use outside the child’s family circle. Rest assured though that your baby’s cord blood will go to good use. If it is found that the cord blood unit is unfit for use in a blood transplant, it will be used for testing to improve the process in the future.
To determine if you’re eligible to donate blood to a public cord blood bank you will have to fill out a health questionnaire regarding your medical history and give a blood sample to check for certain diseases. The process for using a private cord blood bank will be less stringent.