The list of decisions to be made during the course of the pregnancy are extensive. You will be debating which stroller you are supposed to buy. You will end up researching all of the paediatricians in your town. The debate as to the colour the baby’s room will go on long beyond the birth. But one decision I and many others don’t realise they need to make is around whether or not to put the baby cord blood in a cord blood bank. This has been an ever-growing phenomenon over recent years, but many aren’t sure what to do when they are confronted with the option and whether or not it may be right for their family.

What is it?

This was the first question I had when confronted with the question as to whether or not it was something we would want to pursue. In a nutshell, cord blood is basically the left-over blood that is in the umbilical cord after the umbilical cord is cut. While baby does not need this leftover blood, it has cells that could be used to treat a variety of diseases either now or in the future. Cord blood banking basically means this blood is then frozen and stored or “banked” to be used at some point in the future.

Why is it popular?

Without getting too technical, cord blood has a lot of special hematopoietic stem cells that aren’t found in blood from other parts of the body. Most cells can only copy themselves. So, if you have cells from a liver, they can only develop into cells found in the liver etc. But these cells in the cord blood can be developed into a variety of different types of cells. You may have heard of the life saving qualities of stem cells and how someone who is sick could be saved with a stem cell transplant. These are basically those cells. So, if your child, or a family member got sick with something like leukaemia or sickle cell disease, these cells could potentially save their life. Not to mention others in the wider population who could benefit if you allow them to use some of the cells.

Is it worth it?

This question relies a lot on your own personal view of the work, propensity to supporting altruistic causes and also your own risk profile in terms of wanting to be prepared just in case some sort of awful disease strikes your family. There is no right or wrong answer to this question. One person may decide that its worth spending the money to have the blood stored just in case their child gets sick. Another can decided that its honestly not worth spending potentially a few thousand dollars to store the blood, because the likelihood of developing a disease where they would be used is so rare and it makes more sense to put that money in to a college fund for the baby. Likewise, while everyone in theory agrees that organ donation is a good idea, when it comes to specifically donating your own organs, more people are reluctant to volunteer even though they wont need them as they will be dead! The same is true here, you may agree that providing the stem cells is academically a good idea, but you are uncomfortable with your own child’s blood being used to save others. It really is a personal decision, but one that you need to way up based on your own values and beliefs.