Since September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, we thought we’d talk about cord blood banking and adoption.

What is cord blood banking?

Cord blood banking is the collection of blood cells found in the umbilical cord. While stem cells can be found in bone marrow or fat tissue as well, the stem cells found in umbilical cords are considered to be among the youngest and most flexible. Stem cells are used medically to help find injured cells or tissues and initiate a healing process. Cord blood cells are considered by some to be less controversial than embryonic stem cells since they are naturally existing cells found in the umbilical cord.

Cells from cord blood, which are unique to the baby they are collected from/for, have been used to treat anemia, leukemia and other types of cancer. Cord Blood Registry, one of many organizations that assist with cord blood collection, has a long list of other conditions for which cord blood has been used.

How does cord blood banking work?

You and your spouse should research cord blood banking and determine if it is an option you’d like to pursue for you and your baby. There are many organizations that offer cord blood collection services, so consider asking your doctor or pediatrician (or reference the American Academy of Physicians) for reputable opinions on cord blood practices.

You must decide in advance if you’d like to pursue cord blood collection as it must be collected at birth. After the umbilical cord is clamped and cut, the remaining blood is collected and stored until it is needed. If you do not previously indicate that you’d like to collect the cord blood, it will be set aside as medical waste. Once you select a cord blood banking organization, they will let you know what items are necessary for the collection at the hospital.

Cord Blood Banking and Adoption Logistics

In order to successfully pursue cord blood banking in an adoption, there are three factors that must align:

  • Timing: Cord blood banking requires time and planning. You’ll need to research and select the cord blood banking organization that you’d like to use, request the materials necessary for the collection and provide those materials and other pertinent information to the doctor and the hospital where the baby is being delivered. Since many adoption opportunities occur on short notice – or even after the baby is born – many adoptive families decline to pursue cord blood banking because of unpredictable timing alone.
  • Birth Mother Agreement: Your child’s birth mother must be on-board with the idea of cord blood banking in order to make it happen at the hospital. Your child’s birth mother has to agree with any testing or procedures to herself or the baby prior to signing her relinquishments (which usually happens 24 to 48 hours after the baby is born). If cord blood banking is something that you feel passionately about, and you have the luxury of time in your adoption opportunity, your Adoption Specialist can help you discuss the topic and your preference to collect cord blood with your child’s birth mother.
  • Your Financial Situation: Cord blood banking isn’t cheap. To collect cord blood at delivery, it can cost $1500+. Additionally, families must pay to have the cord blood stored until a time when it might be needed. All costs for cord blood collection will be at the expense of the adoptive family. If an adoption disrupts or if a medical situation prevents the cord blood collection during delivery, those costs could potentially be lost expenses for you.

Because of these three factors, many adoptive families opt out of collecting cord blood at their child’s birth. However, if there is time to set everything up, the birth parents are comfortable with the process and the adoptive couple is comfortable with the cost, then it is something that can work out successfully.