Cord Blood: Medical Waste or Liquid Gold?

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One of the reasons we have chosen to train with  ProDoula is because they are constantly giving members the opportunity to continue to grow and obtain more education. Today we had the opportunity to participate in a call about cord blood banking.

Until 30 years ago, cord blood, and the stem cells it contains, were considered to be medical waste. The baby was born, maybe some of that blood went in to the baby as a result of delayed cord clamping, and then the cord, placenta, and the blood they contained are disposed of as medical waste. Now what if you found out that this medical waste could be worth more than its weight in gold? That’s right, cord blood and cord tissue are currently being studied as means of treatment for blood and metabolic diseases, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, Traumatic Brain Injuries, Autism, cerebral palsy, and more.

What is a cord blood stem cell?

That’s a great question. You may have heard of stem cells from bone marrow, often used for cancer patients. While these cells can do a good job at treating cancer, they cannot differentiate what type of cell to become. However, the stem cells contained in cord blood are master cells to the body; they can both replicate and differentiate when put back in the body. This means that if a baby were to have a stroke in-utero and were then treated with cord blood stem cells, the stem cells would regenerate as new neurologic cells.

Another benefit of cord blood stem cells is that when using them for a transplant you do not have to have a perfect match. While bone marrow stem cells are older and therefore exposed to more environmental factors, like viruses and vaccines, cord blood stem cells are virtually pure, which means they are easier to match to a non-related recipient. This is especially beneficial when working with individuals with mixed ethnicities and minority backgrounds.

Where is cord blood used?

This is a great time to look at your family history. Cord blood stem cell transplants are undergoing trials for treating conditions such as:

  • Hypoplastic left heart syndrome
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Stroke
  • Type one diabetes
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Autism
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lou Gehrig’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Heart failure
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Liver disease
  • And more

To date about 40,000 cord blood transplants have been performed and hundreds of children with cerebral palsy have been treated and shown significant improvement.

How is cord blood collected?

Around the 28th week of pregnancy you should begin to look in to your options for cord blood banking. If you decide that you would like to bank your cord blood, you should choose the bank that you feel fits your needs. The following is a simple guide for the process.

  1. Register with your cord blood bank. After registration they will send you a package that has all you need for the cord blood collection when the time comes. It is ideal to have the kit around 32 weeks.
  2. Once the kit arrives it should be stored at room temperature and you will see that it is labeled as required by the FDA.
  3. Don’t forget to bring the kit with you to the hospital!
  4. Upon arrival a nurse or phlebotomist will come in and do a maternal blood draw to see if there are any infections present. The mother can opt out of this blood draw; however, if mother opts out of the blood draw then the retrieved cells can only be used for the baby and not put in the public bank.
  5. The baby is born and the cord has stopped pulsing! Yes, you read that correctly, you can bank your baby’s cord blood and do delayed cord clamping.
  6. While placenta is in-utero the provider will insert the needle in the cord and drain the blood. The cord can be punctured two times to maximize cord blood collection and the blood will drain in to an attached bag. This is painless and can be done while skin to skin takes place. If you so choose cord tissue will also be collected at this time.
  7. All items go in the Styrofoam cooler that comes with the kit and someone will now call for a courier to pick up the contents and deliver them to the cord blood bank.
  8. The blood and cord should be processed and stored in 48 hours.
  9. Will get back to the family within a week to let them know of any issues.
  10. Six to eight weeks post-delivery the family will receive a certificate with stem cell count and showing their ownership

What should I look for in a cord blood bank?

When looking for a cord blood bank you should look for a bank that is accredited by the AABB (formerly the American Association of Blood Banks) and the FDA. The bank you choose should have a warranty on the cells and should store some of the red blood cells so they can be tested later. You should ask about storing procedures to ensure that the cells will be stored correctly.

What is the cost of cord blood banking?

For the first year the cost can be as low as $1,200 or upwards of $2,500 for higher end services. After the first year you will be charged a yearly mount for storage. This typically ranges from $150-400 depending on whether cord blood or cord blood and tissue are being stored.

In some circumstances families can use FSA to cover the cost of cord blood banking if they have a prescription from their doctor. In other cases a HSA can be used. Additionally, many facilities offer payment plans to make this affordable and give the option for prepaid storage to save you money over time.

One thought on “Cord Blood: Medical Waste or Liquid Gold?

  1. Excellent article. Thank you for telling parents the facts about cord blood.
    As a non-profit focused on cord blood education, we encourage parents and birth educators to get the latest information on public and private cord blood banking at
    We have a variety of videos and tools for birth educators to use that are non-commercial and unbiased (presenting both public & private options).
    We look forward to hearing from you @SaveTheCord


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