The umbilical cord is the lifeline between you and your baby – it connects your developing baby to your placenta, which helps to provide nutrients and remove waste. Cord blood, also called “placental blood”, is blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta following the birth of a baby and after the umbilical cord is cut after delivery.
Cord blood banking is the process of storing your child’s umbilical cord blood, which is a rich source of stem cells should the need for a stem cell transplant ever arise. Cord blood is particularly rich in Haematopoietic Stem Cells (HSCs), which are responsible for replenishing blood and regenerating the immune system. It can be used to treat over 80 types of diseases¹ such as leukaemia, lymphoma and thalassemia, as well as metabolic and immune disorders.
Cord blood banking is absolutely safe for both mother and child, and will only serve to benefit your family down the road, should they ever need ready access to these life-saving stem cells.
Find out what are some of the most common questions and myths surrounding cord blood banking and how we’ve debunked them!
⭐ MYTH 1: If my child gets sick, he cannot use his own cord blood.
More than 10,000 stem cell transplants using a person’s own cells – known as autologous stem cell transplants – were performed in the U.S. in 2012². Autologous stem cell transplants can be used to treat certain non-genetic diseases and cancers without the risk of rejection. In addition, a person can use his or her own cord blood cells to help reconstitute their bone marrow after chemotherapy treatment for non-blood cancers. Based on Cordlife’s data on cord blood units released for transplants over the years, 60%³ of the released cord blood units were used for autologous treatment.
⭐ MYTH 2: Bone marrow is a common source of stem cells so I can always find a bone marrow donor. There’s no point in storing my baby’s cord blood.
There are several advantages of storing your baby’s cord blood stem cells as compared to finding a bone marrow stem cell donor:
- Unlike adult stem cells derived from bone marrow, cord blood stem cells are known as naïve cells which means that they have a greater ability to convert themselves into other types of cells.
- Cord blood stem cells are a guaranteed match for autologous transplants (where the donor and recipient are the same individual).
- Cord blood contains an available supply of stored stem cells. Compared to having to conduct a national or international search, which can be costly and time-consuming during a time critical situation.
- Cord blood has a lower risk of Graft vs Host Disease for autologous transplants, a situation where the transplanted tissue attacks the patient’s own tissue.
- Extracting stem cells from bone marrow is usually invasive, whereas cord blood is easy to collect, which is pain-free and risk-free to both mother and child.
⭐ MYTH 3: Odds that a family will ever need their banked cord blood are so low that people shouldn’t bother doing it.
Cord blood is a ready source of genetically related stem cells for a family member. Unlike bone marrow which requires a perfect match between donor and patient, the probability of finding a match among family members using cord blood stem cells is much higher. By storing the cord blood from each child, parents can increase the chance of locating a match within the family4.
⭐ MYTH 4: Cord blood can ONLY treat blood disorders
Not true—studies have shown that cord blood has proven to treat over 80 diseases1 such as leukaemia, lymphoma, and thalassemia. There are also many ongoing clinical trials and studies using cord blood stem cells, which have given hope to families faced with conditions such as cerebral palsy, autism, and diabetes – all of which currently have no known cure5. What’s more, studies have also shown that 1 in 3 people6 are estimated to benefit from such regenerative medicine therapy which requires the patient’s own cord blood!
⭐ MYTH 5: All cord blood banks are the same!
Nope, not all family cord blood banks are the same! They vary in terms of quality, experience and even the technology they use to collect, process, and store your baby’s cord blood.
Choosing a family cord blood bank that has passed as least one voluntary accreditation standard that is specific to cord blood banking, either the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) or the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT), is highly recommended by The Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation.
Another important factor to consider is whether the family cord blood bank has a proven track record of releasing cord blood for transplants. This is an indication that the cord blood stem cells are being stored according to international standards and will still be usable should the need for a transplant ever arise⁷.
⭐ MYTH 6: Participating in clinical trials provides no benefit to me as a patient.
Clinical trials are one of the key driving forces in medical breakthroughs and it represents hope for families with conditions that have no known cure. They are designed to make improvements in medical advancements related to the treatment, diagnosis, and prevention of illnesses⁸ .
Apart from being successfully used to treat blood disorders such as leukaemia, lymphoma, and thalassemia, cord blood stem cell treatment in clinical trials have also shown positive results for conditions such as cerebral palsy and diabetes.
⭐ MYTH 7: Collecting cord blood can affect delivery and takes blood away from our baby.
Cord blood collection happens only after your baby is born and when the umbilical cord has been clamped and cut. The collection is painless, easy, and safe for both mother and baby. Deciding to save your baby’s cord blood shouldn’t change the normal birthing process, whether you have a vaginal delivery or a C-section. For those who choose not to store their baby’s cord blood, it will normally be discarded.
What to Consider When Choosing a Family Cord Blood Bank
As there is only one chance to collect your baby’s cord blood at birth, it’s important to do it with the right partner. Here are some key factors to look out for when it comes to selecting a family cord blood bank that you can entrust to safeguard your child's life-saving resource:
👍 Long-standing Establishment
A family cord blood bank that has a long-standing establishment is testament to the company’s stability. It also assures parents that their baby’s precious life-saving stem cells are stored with a trusted and reliable partner who will be with them for the long haul. A helpful tip will be to go with the largest family cord blood bank in Singapore, as they have over 18 years of experience under their belt. Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, an independent resource and non-profit foundation, has also ranked the Top 10 family cord blood banks worldwide, and a quick search can tell you if any of these are in Singapore.
👍 International Accreditations
Besides choosing an established family cord blood bank, it’s also important that your chosen family cord blood bank has been accredited by international bodies such as American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) or Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT). These accreditations ensure that the family cord blood bank adheres to the highest standards of quality when it comes to the handling, processing and storing of your baby’s cord blood through regular and rigorous audits. It also ensures that your child’s cord blood stem cells will still remain viable should the need for transplantation ever arise. There are only 6 family cord blood banks in the world that have received international dual-certifications, with one of them being right here on our sunny island!
👍 Transplant Track Record
Another important consideration factor is the bank’s proven transplant track record. This is an indication that the family cord blood bank is experienced in successfully releasing cord blood stem cells for transplants and therapeutic applications. It also confirms that the cord blood stem cells stored under their care are in accordance with the international standards and thereby ensuring the viability of your child's cord blood stem cells.
👍 Fully-owned Processing and Storage Facility
Proper protocols go into ensuring the viability of your child’s cord blood stem cells. This is why it’s also important to choose a family cord blood bank that has full ownership over their processing and storage facilities. This means that they are able to maintain direct control over critical services, quality, licensing and accreditations which assures parents of the well-being of their child’s cord blood that are stored under its care. This also provides the family cord blood bank with immediate access to resources in the event of an emergency.
👍 Additional Service Offerings
Besides storing cord blood stem cells, check if your chosen family cord blood bank is able to offer additional services as it would give you access to more medical options for your child and family members. Cordlife is a patented technology provider in the processing and storage of cord lining cells – Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) and Cord Lining Epithelial Cells (CLECs). By storing a combination of cells, it increases your child and family’s medical options for possible therapeutic and regenerative applications in the future, especially for conditions that currently have no known cure.
👍 Financial Stability
As stem cell transplants or therapies may take place now or later in life, choosing a family cord blood bank with a sound, transparent and sustainable financial status is vital as it ensures that the family cord blood bank will be one that you can trust to be with you for the long haul. Public-listed companies offer financial transparency for increased assurance. Some other factors to take note of also include the family cord blood bank’s processing technology, customer service and enrolment process, just to name a few.