Why You Should Consider Cord Blood Banking
If you are an expecting parent in Singapore, you might have heard of Cord Blood Banking. For the benefit of the uninitiated, a Cord Blood Bank is a facility that stores umbilical cord blood for future use.
As a parent, before your child comes into the world, you prepare your home, surroundings and alter your routines to make way for the new member. Each and every step is planned around the well-being of your baby. Cord Blood Banking is also one such step that can help towards protecting the health of your young one for a lifetime.
What is cord blood?
Cord blood is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord following the birth of a baby. Once the umbilical cord has been clamped and cut, the remaining blood in the umbilical cord is drawn into a collection bag. This blood is the biggest source of stem cells. These cells known as haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are primarily responsible for replenishing blood and regenerating the immune system. Should there ever be a need to do a stem transplant for your child in future, the cord blood acts as a life saver, literally! They are also effective in treating certain specific (life threatening) diseases.
The Benefits of Cord Blood Banking
Uncomplicated and easy to collect: The process of collecting cord blood is easy and poses no risk or pain for the mother or child during the time of birth. It is done during the cutting of the umbilical cord and hence no additional procedure is required.
Does not need a perfect match: Even if it is only a partial match between the donor and the recipient, cord blood can be transplanted. Hence, it increases the patients chance to find a donor.
Ready-to-use: The blood is collected in advance for future use. All routine tests are carried out and the blood is stored frozen. If a match is located, it can be readily used. Unlike in the case of bone marrow where you need to not only locate a match but also wait for their willingness, etc.
Lower risk of viral infections: Cord blood stem cells are rarely contaminated and hence are less likely to transmit certain common viruses, like Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and cytomegalovirus (CMV), which are considered common viruses and can prove to be a lethal infection for the transplant patient.
The Limitations of Cord Blood Banking
Small Volume: The volume of cord blood collection is relatively small. Hence the stem cells available are fewer in number and they might be useful only for the transplant needs of a child and not an adult.
Exposure to genetic disorders: Cord blood transplants can expose the patient to a rare genetic disease of the blood or immune system. Genetic disorders in the infant may not be visible for many months or years, hence it is difficult to track those using current screening methods.
Limited availability: The donor cord blood stem cells that come from a new born baby will be unavailable for an additional donation. Hence, if the first cord blood unit fails, the patient has to depend on a different donor for a second unit.
Public vs Private Cord Blood Banks
Cord blood can be stored in a private or a public bank. In a public bank, the blood is donated where anyone can use it. In such a system you will not be able to reserve it for your family's use. It may or may not be available in the future. The sample is publicly listed on International Donor Registries. Public Cord Blood Banking is free and there is diversity of cord blood units available.
In the case of a private bank you pay to store the baby's cord blood for later family use only. The sample is made available on request. It is never listed on any registries unless requested by the family. Naturally, there is a cost charged by the private bank to store the blood for future use. The choice is yours. The Singapore Cord Blood Bank (SCBB) is Singapores only public cord blood bank that collects, processes and stores donated umbilical cord blood for use in stem cell transplants. Private banks include Cordlife and Cryoviva.
Costs Involved in Cord Blood Banking
If your baby is a Singapore citizen, most private banks allow you to make payment via the Child Development Account (CDA) or Baby Bonus where the Government will match the amount you contribute. Payment begins only after the baby is born.
For non-Singaporeans, most private banks give the option of payment via instalments using the credit card. There is normally a one-time enrolment fee and an annual storage fee. The upfront or one-time costs are approximately between $1800-$2000 with an additional annual fee of $250 for storage. The pricing schedule of most private banks in Singapore is made available upon request by the client.
If you have stored your baby's blood in a cord blood bank, please ensure you are aware of the transportation policies of the bank in case you wish to relocate to another country. If private banking seems to be an expensive proposition, then you should consider making a donation to a public bank as that can potentially save a life in the future. Keeping the above listed pros and cons in mind, it is up to you as parents to make an informed decision for the well-being of your family.
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