Nevertheless, many major medical associations have come out against private cord blood banking (except in specific cases in which it is medically indicated that the family has an increased chance of needing the cells).
As scientists understand more about these special cells and how they can be used, the positions individual medical associations take on them will continue to change. "It's important for every expectant parent to take time to educate themselves about where the science is today and where it's going," says Zitlow.
The Public Banking Debate
Public banking is another option for expectant parents. The cord blood will be collected using the same methods, shipped, and placed in storage. The major difference is that it won't be reserved for your baby or another family members' use. Instead, it will be tested, typed and entered into a registry to match anyone who needs a transplant.
"There is a 30 percent chance of finding a transplant match in the family," explains Dr. Karen Ballen, Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and director of the Leukemia Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. Those people who need a bone marrow transplant and don't have a family match then turn to donor registries.
"The wait for a volunteer donor is many months, and it is particularly difficult for blacks and other minorities to find fully matched volunteer donors," says Dr. Ballen. "Donating your baby's cord blood to a public bank is a way of offering transplantation for people who don't have a match in their families."
In addition, the cost for collecting, shipping and storing the cord blood is paid for by someone else (a non-profit foundation, government funding, and/or the transplant recipient) and doesn't cost the donator anything.