Banking Cord Blood: Why and How To Make This Life-Saving Decision

by Dr. Rallie McAllister

When you’re expecting a baby, you face dozens of important decisions, such as choosing an obstetrician or a midwife, a birthing center, a car seat, and a name for your precious little one. r child. One of the most critical decisions you’ll make is whether to collect and save your baby’s umbilical cord blood. You only have one opportunity to do it: in the moments following your baby’s birth.

Umbilical cord blood is a rich source of stem cells, considered to be the master cells of the body. For more than two decades, cord blood stem cells have been used in transplant medicine to treat a wide variety of serious diseases, including leukemia and other cancers and blood disorders.

Scientists at leading universities and hospitals in the United States are exploring a growing list of potential uses for cord blood stem cells. One of the most promising areas of stem cell research is regenerative medicine, in which an individual’s own stem cells are used to repair damaged or diseased tissues and organs.

Clinical trials are underway to evaluate the benefits of using a child’s cord blood stem cells in the treatment of type 1 diabetes, hearing loss, cerebral palsy, and other brain injuries. As research advances, it’s likely that the use of cord blood stems cells will become even more commonplace and more beneficial in the future.

Choosing a Family Cord Blood Bank

Once you decide to bank your baby’s cord blood, you need to choose the bank that’s right for you and your family. Here’s how:

1. Do Your Research and Do It Early:

  • Talk to family and friends and your healthcare provider to get recommendations.
  • Check online for testimonials and reviews. What is the bank's reputation?
  • Don't assume it's best to enroll with one close to home. A bank's headquarters and its storage facility may not even be in the same state.

2.   Know the Regulations and Requirements:

  • Has the bank registered with the U.S Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and met all state regulatory requirements?
  • Is the bank accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB)?  Accreditation, which requires audits every two years, is evidence that your sample is screened, processed, and stored following the strictest quality assurance guidelines.

3.  Be Picky with the Process:

  • What delivery method is used to transport the blood? Samples can be destroyed because of improper transit.  A reputable bank should use a medical courier company.
  • Ask about collection and storage methods, as well as published rates on cell viability to ensure the bank is using the best available technology to save your cells so they will be ready in the event that you might need them.  
  • Find out if they've facilitated any successful transplants. A red flag should go up if a bank has a high volume of cord blood units in storage but has never used a unit for transplant.  This could mean transplant surgeons have rejected their cord blood which could mean its procedures are not careful or thorough enough.

4. Business and Stability:

  • How long has the bank been in business?
  • Is the bank involved in any research or clinical studies with prestigious medical research institutions?  A bank on the cutting edge of research would likely play a stronger and supportive role if the cord blood was needed in treatment for your child.
  • How profitable is the company? It’s important to realize cord blood banking is a business.  If the bank goes out of business it could mean the cord blood units will be no longer be retrievable.
An online education site that might help you understand all of your cord blood banking options is at

About The Author

Dr. Rallie McAllister is the cofounder of and the coauthor of The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy and Birth and The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby’s First Year, which all feature tips that doctors who are also mothers use for their own families.

Posted February 2012