Cord blood banking: Your questions answered
Today's generation of parents will do anything to ensure the health and wellbeing of their child. This includes the option of cord blood banking. Read on to learn more about why and how you should make this choice.
We will do almost anything to protect our children.
That is a fact. As parents, it’s part of our job description: keeping our child out of harm’s way, ensuring that they remain in good health to enable them to achieve their full potential and ultimately, lead happy lives.
Every generation of parents have revolved their parenting styles around these basic parenting principles; however, each generation of parents face different issues and have different choices to make.
When it comes to keeping our children healthy and disease-free, scientific advancements and technological innovations, have given modern parents a plethora options. With these medical advancements, there is so much more that can be done today to ensure the health and well-being of their children throughout his/her lifetime.
One such procedure that many parents-to-be are now opting for is — cord blood banking.
In this article we share with you the reasons why you, as a parent-to-be, should consider cord blood banking and what you should consider while choosing a cord blood bank.
But before that, let us understand what cord blood banking is all about.
Simply put, cord blood (or “placental blood”) is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta following the birth of a baby and after the umbilical cord is cut post-delivery.
Cord blood banking is the process of storing this blood.
The process of cord blood banking is straightforward, safe, and painless for both mother and child. You can learn more about it here.
Parents are becoming more interested in cord blood banking and there are also many parents-to-be who are unclear on what cord blood banking entails. Some common questions include: why should I opt for cord blood banking? What is there to consider? What should I look for in a cord blood bank?
In this article we address some of the questions that parents-to-be might also have, while considering the different factors that will lead to the decision of whether or not to store your baby’s cord blood. We also spoke with Dr Lee Keen Whye, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Singapore O&G Ltd to help address some of your concerns.
Watch Dr Lee answer some of the questions about cord blood banking in the video below.
In 2001, three-year-old Ray Fu* was diagnosed with leukaemia. At that time, he was given a 10 per cent chance of recovery unless he received a bone marrow transplant.
After trying in vain to locate a matching bone marrow donor, Ray*’s parents decided to conceive another child to help him. Fortunately, the stem cells from his sister’s cord blood were a 100 per cent match, and these were infused into Ray*. The procedure was a success, and Ray*’s leukaemia was subsequently declared to be in remission.
In 2009, little Georgia Conn became the first person in Singapore to receive stem cell treatment for Cerebral Palsy using her own cord blood.
Cerebral Palsy is a neurological disorder caused by an injury to the brain before or at birth, and causes uncontrollable body movements or tremors. This condition caused Georgia to often scream in pain, and suffer up to 50 seizures a day. Her stem cell treatment proved successful. Following her treatment, Georgia gained muscle strength and was able to sit for more than an hour without pain.
In both cases, it was the parents’ decision to store their child’s cord blood which enabled the stem cell treatments, and helped the two young children fight against the odds.
Stem cells are the building blocks of the human body. The umbilical cord, which serves as the lifeline between mother and baby for nine-months is a rich source of stem cells. The stem cells in cord blood are known as haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and are primarily responsible for replenishing blood and regenerating the immune system.
- Stem cell treatment can treat illnesses: Statistics show that 1 in every 217 persons1 may require stem cell treatment in their lifetime. Stem cells in the cord blood can be used to treat more than 85 types of diseases2 such as thalassaemia, lymphoma and leukaemia, to name a few, as well as certain metabolic and immune disorders. Clinical trials are also underway to use cord blood for the treatment of autism, diabetes type 1, Alzheimer’s disease, spinal cord injury and many more.
- Cost effective: According to Dr Lee, it is also possible to do a national or international search if and when a need for stem cells arises. But, he adds, “This process is both costly and time-consuming. The procurement of a cord blood sample in Singapore can cost up to $75,000, and that is provided that you first beat the 1 in 20,000 odds of finding a match within the same racial group.”
- More effective than the alternatives: There are other sources of deriving stem cells, such as from a matched bone marrow donor. However, the advantage of using cord blood stem cells is that they’re younger and more primitive, meaning these cells are faster in generating healthy cells, and are also more tolerant to tissue mismatches which may happen in transplants involving a donor.
Another thing for parents to note is that they should consider storing the cord blood for each of their children, as storing just one sibling’s cord blood is not enough. This is because, each of your child’s cord blood stem cells are genetically unique and according to Dr Lee, “storing the cord blood for each of your children ensures that an exact genetic match is available.”
Something else that parents should know is that in addition to storing their child’s cord blood, they can also consider store their child’s cord lining. Dr Lee explains that the main difference between the two is the type and function of stem cells present in both the cord blood and cord lining. Cord blood contains Haematopoietic Stem Cells (HSCs), which are primarily “blood-forming” stem cells responsible for replenishing blood and regenerating the immune system.
In contrast, cord lining contains Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) and Epithelial Stem Cells (EpSCs), which are the “muscle-forming” and “skin-forming” building blocks in the human body. While the medical use of cord lining stem cells are still under clinical trials, the list of potential treatments include Parkinson’s disease, stroke, spinal cord injury, skeletal and tissue repairs, as well as wound healing.
Now that you know a little bit more about what cord blood banking is and why you should consider it, read next page to find out what you should consider before choosing a cord blood bank.
As parents-to-be, remember that you will only have one chance to collect your baby’s cord blood at birth, so it is important to understand what factors to look out for in order to make an informed decision about cord blood banking before delivery. This includes choosing which cord blood bank to store your child’s umbilical cord stem cells with.
Given the current and potential value that the stem cells in your baby’s cord blood holds, there are several factors that parents-to-be would need to consider when selecting a reliable family cord blood bank. Some of the criteria that you should be looking at includes:
- Accreditations: Having accreditations by both national and independent international organisations, like the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB), ensures that the bank adheres to stringent protocols in order to meet high quality and safety standards.
- Transplant Track Record: A bank’s record on the number of cord blood units released for treatment is good validation of their processing and storage methods.
- Facility: A cord blood bank that owns their own processing and storage facility maintains direct control over critical services, quality, licensing and accreditations. This is an indication of the bank’s investment towards ensuring the well-being of the families whose cord blood units are stored under their care.
- Financial Stability: Deciding to save your baby’s cord blood is a long-term decision. Public-listed companies offer financial transparency for increased assurance.
Ultimately, as parents, you have to make a well informed decision about what is best for your baby now and in the long run.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.
 Nietfeld JJ, Pasquini MC, Logan BR, et al. Lifetime probabilities of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in the U.S. Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation. 2008; 14:316-322.
 Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation website. http://parentsguidetocordblood.org/diseases.php. Accessed January 5, 2016.
Have you banked your child’s cord blood? Are you considering it at the moment? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments section below.