Cord blood is frozen after it is collected and stored in cord blood banks. It is important to remember that not all families are eligible to donate cord blood and not all cord blood collections will meet the requirements for public storage. If you donate your cord blood, publicly or privately, there is no guarantee that the sample will be a match and will be used in the future. There are two types of cord blood banks: public cord blood banks and private cord blood banks.
Public Cord Blood Banking
Public cord blood banks collect and store donated cord blood stem cells for use with anyone who is in need of a stem cell transplantation. They do not charge donation fees. Public banks do not reserve the umbilical cord blood for the family that donated them. The donations are made available to the general public in order to find the best match. No information about you or your baby is provided to the patient receiving the cord blood. Each year, many adults and children receive life-saving treatment from umbilical cord blood that families have chosen to publicly donate.
Cord blood does not have to be exactly matched to the patient receiving it, but when donated cells closely match the patient, their chances of transplant success improve. Patients are more likely to match someone who shares their racial or ethnic heritage. Cord blood donations are very important to secure transplants for patients who are of minority or mixed heritage, as the need for donations is great but the supply is small.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends public donation of umbilical cord blood for all families; however, private banking can be considered only if a full sibling has a medical diagnosis for which stem cells are being used for treatment.
Private Cord Blood Banking
A private cord blood bank is a commercial, for-profit organization that advertises directly to parents. If you choose to store your cord blood privately, it will only be available for use by your family and will not be available to public banks for unrelated transplants or research. Private banking allows you to have your baby’s cord blood collected and stored for your baby or another close family member if ever needed. Private donation banks usually charge an initial fee for collection and processing and then charge an annual fee for storage. Banking your baby’s cord blood in a private bank might provide a match for your baby or siblings. However, there is no guarantee that the cord blood will be a match or will be used in the future.
Choosing either a public or private cord blood bank is a personal decision that you should make for yourself after reviewing information and having a discussion with your health care provider.