Rhonda Patt

Should newborn’s cord blood be preserved?

Q. My husband and I are expecting our first baby this fall. Several of my friends have paid to have their baby’s cord blood collected and stored. We are looking for objective, up-to-date information about cord blood banking to help us make our decision.

A. Cord blood banking is the collection and storage of blood from the umbilical cord and placenta during delivery. Cord blood contains stem cells that can be used for research and for the treatment of such diseases as certain cancers, blood and immune system disorders and genetic metabolic disorders.

There are two different types of cord blood collection and storage: private and public.

Private cord blood banking is when cord blood is stored for potential use by your own child or a family member. The cost is covered by the family.

Public cord blood banking is when a baby’s cord blood is donated and stored in a public cord blood bank. The blood is available to anyone who needs a stem cell transplant – similar to the bone marrow donation process. It may also be used for research.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends donation of cord blood to public cord blood banks if one is available in your area. Private cord blood banking is recommended for parents who have an older child who could potentially benefit from transplantation. However, in most cases, a child will not be able to use his or her own stem cells because any condition would also be present in the stem cells.

As stem cell research continues, the number of diseases that can potentially be treated with stem cells from cord blood will likely continue to grow. For more information: marrow.org.

Rhonda Patt is a pediatrician with Charlotte Pediatric Clinic. Email living@charlotteobserver.com; put “pediatrician” in the subject line.