Everything you need to know about baby cord blood banking in Singapore in really simple terms.
When you have a little one on the way, the decisions mama’s hormonally charged brain and dada’s nervous mind are expected to process are monumental.
Do you want to know the gender of your baby in advance? What immunisations will bub have on arrival? Should you attend prenatal classes or just give into the urge to eat another bowl of ice cream? Will you need a confinement nanny and, if so, will she let you wash your hair? Which nappy bag is going to look best on your arm?
And, another biggie, will you store your baby’s cord blood in Singapore?
Pretty much everyone who banked the cord blood of their children will claim it’s a must do, while those who didn’t will say it is an unnecessary procedure that isn’t backed by any solid research.
So what’s the real deal?
In our guide to cord blood banking in Singapore, we take a look at the pros and cons of storing cord blood stem cells and give you all the information you need to evaluate if it really is worth the expense.
Baby Cord Blood Banking in Singapore
What the Heck is Cord Blood Banking and What Does it Involve?
Cord blood banking involves harvesting your babies blood, specifically, the blood that is still contained in the attached umbilical cord immediately after birth and storing it for potential use at a future date.
This blood is rich in stem cells, the same as those which might be found in bone marrow, except here they exist as immature stem cells that have not yet figured out how to attack foreign substances. As a result, they are much less prone to rejection when used in a transplant.
The procedure is very simple. In fact whilst you are cooing over your new arrival, you will hardly even notice as the umbilical cord is clamped and then cut in exactly the same way as one would normally expect. Once detached from bubs, a needle is used to drain the blood into a bag and it is shipped off to be frozen for the future. You cannot delay more than a minute or two as the blood in the umbilical cord will begin to clot, at which point it will be of no use–it wouldn’t even go to baby if the cord was still attached.
What Diseases Can Cord Blood Treat?
Cord blood is rich in immature stem cells which can be used for a variety of potentially lifesaving treatments.
Cord blood transplants have been performed for other 20 years and are now in use in over 80 conditions. Chief among these, of course, are blood cancers such as leukaemia and lymphoma, with which the heavy doses of chemotherapy that are required to kill the cancer can leave patients’ cell counts and immune systems at dangerously low levels.
A dose of cord blood stem cells boosts the patent’s healthy cell count and bolsters the immune system. In effect, it resets the immune system and wipes the slate clean after cancer.
Cord blood is especially effective as it is less likely to be rejected and moves through the bloodstream to the most damaged areas, where they then begin to adapt to the cells most needed by the body before multiplying. Studies have shown that cord blood stem cells are more adaptable than other types of cells and that they multiply much quicker.
Cord blood is also effective at treating immune disorders and metabolic conditions such as Hurlers syndrome and Krabbe disease. The FDA is currently also conducting trials on the suitability of using cord blood stem cells to treat those with autism, brain injury and other conditions.
Further reading: https://parentsguidecordblood.org/en/diseases
What’s the Chance You’ll Actually Need the Blood?
Your odds of actually needing the blood are pretty slim. But that’s good news, right?
Here’s the thing. The odds you’ll die in car crash are approximate 18,000 to 1, but you still get car insurance, don’t you?
Or the chances of an airline losing your luggage are less than 1 in 100, but you still get travel insurance.
And it’s on this basis the majority of people who do opt for private cord blood banking do so: They view it as an insurance policy that can be called upon in the event that someone in their family needs those precious cells one day.
The latest research shows that we have a much higher probability of needing a stem cell transplant than previously thought; in 2008 medical journal, Biology of Blood and Bone Marrow Transplantation indicated that in the US as many as 1 in every 200 people may require this in the future. In the UK the charity The Anthony Nolan Trust estimates that around 70 people per day are diagnosed with a blood cancer and approximately 2000 people per year in the UK require a bone marrow or stem cell transplant.
Cord Blood Banking: Frequently Asked Questions
If you bank the cord for one baby, do you need to do so for siblings as well?
Being able to use stem cells for a transplant depends on whether the donor is a matching HLA type. As such, it is a good idea to bank all of your children’s cord blood, for the simple reason that full siblings have a 25% chance of a perfect match and a 50% chance of being a half match. Stands to reason then that the more children you have and the more cord blood you bank, the better the chance of being to help your kids should they become seriously ill.
Can you bank cord blood and still delay clamping?
Yes. Allowing the blood to drain from the umbilical cord back into bubs can help prevent iron decencies and, therefore, delayed clamping is becoming increasingly common. The absolute max you can delay before the blood starts clotting and becomes useless for both bubs and the blood bank is five minutes, but the cord should not be clamped any earlier than one minute after birth. There should be plenty of time to allow your newborn to receive the blood you want him or her to have. The cord should still have 25% of the blood left after a few minutes as this is the minimum required.
Can the cord blood stem cells be used on the baby that has donated?
At this point in time, it is unlikely that your baby’s own cord blood will be useful for his or her own treatment, most current treatments require a matching donor. There are emerging therapies that would require the use of your child’s own blood cells but these are yet to be proven. As it stands, the likelihood of your baby needing their own cells is remote and pregnant mums need to be aware of this when making a decision about blood banking.
Does taking the blood from the cord take valuable stem cells from the baby?
No. During the procedure, the umbilical cord is clamped and cut in just the same way as it normally would be. The only difference is that the blood is collected rather than being immediately discarded. Your baby is not being denied any blood that he or she would normally receive.
How long can cord blood be stored for?
Research has found that, in addition to remaining viable for over 2o years, stem cells survive for many years in the exact same condition as the day they were frozen. With proper freezing procedures and storage, scientists believe that cord blood can be stored for decades and possibly indefinitely.
If I donate cord blood to a public bank, can I get it back if I need it?
A public donation is essentially an altruistic act for the benefit of others or society at large, so once you have donated the cord blood to the public bank it becomes the property of the bank and you are highly unlikely to get it back. The cord blood might have been used for a suitable donor match, there may not have been enough blood in the donation to make it viable for banking or it may have failed a screening test. If you want guaranteed access, unviable donations notwithstanding, the way to go is private cord blood banking.
What should I look for in a private cord bank in Singapore?
You will need to assess the company’s viability and stability. You don’t want to pay thousands if dollars only for the company to go bankrupt and for you to find out years later than the cord blood you paid so much to bank is lost forever.
This due diligence should also include some research into the processing and storage techniques the company uses.
Cord Blood Banking: Yay or Nay?
Why Private Cord Blood Banking is the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread
When it comes down to the brass tacks, the one big advantage of a private cord blood bank is that it guarantees you a high chance of donor blood cells if the sibling of the donor develops a serious illness such as leukaemia.
However, you should always remember that there are no cast-iron guarantees that the donation will be of use. There may well be medical breakthroughs that increase the chances of using the baby’s own blood at a later stage, but as things stand, the odds that you will need the blood are pretty low. According to the NHS in the UK, it currently stands at between 1 in 5000 to 1 in 2000.
Basically, cord blood banking is a form of medical insurance. You can see it as an investment in science and technology because you have no idea of knowing what technologies scientists will discover or develop in the next 20 years. The best-case scenario is that you will never need to use it because your children will never fall ill.
There have been many, many cases in which banked cord blood has saved lives. For example, the case of one child who was saved by his baby brother’s cord blood.
Why You May Want to Give Cord Blood Banking a Miss
The main reason why you might want to give blood banking a miss is the cost, even looked at as an insurance policy for the future, it carries a hefty premium.
A further downside, especially with private blood banking, is that company will generally only send a kit for the midwife to use in order to collect the blood right after birth. There has been some concern in the UK press that this is a distraction at a key moment, when the midwife should be solely focussed on making sure the newborn is breathing properly and that mum us not bleeding too much.
Another issue that many people raise is that many donations end up being wasted because they do not contain a sufficient amount of cells to make them viable for use in a transplant.
Perhaps the biggest concern you should have is that cord blood banking may mean that you won’t able to practice delayed cord clamping, something that experts believe is extremely important. If you want to learn more about this, you should check out this fascinating video on the importance of delayed clamping:
Finally, if you’re an expat in Singapore and are not planning on staying in the long term, you may find that you are unable to access any cord blood you have banked. You should check that the provider will ship the cord blood in the event that you need it overseas.
Should you Private Bank or Donate Your Baby’s Cord Blood?
Donating Cord Blood: Key Considerations
- Essentially, when you make a decision about whether you want to bank your blood privately or to donate it, you need to carefully consider the likelihood that you will need the blood in the future. Is this an insurance policy you want to skip or embrace?
- Donating may save someone’s life, even if it is not necessarily your own or that of a family member. That’s a pretty important thing to do.
- If you’re considering donating, get in touch with the SCBB as soon as possible. This will give you loads of time to research your options.
- Remember that if the need does arise and your cord blood is still banked, you will be permitted to use it.
- Cord blood matches tend to be better if there is a race match. If you’re a minority race in Singapore, you may wish to bank your blood one way or another.
How to Donate Cord Blood in Singapore
According to the Strait’s Times, there is currently a shortage of cord blood donors in Singers, so if you fancy doing a good deed, now it a good time.
The Singapore Cord Blood Bank (SCBB) is the only non-profit public cord bank in Singapore.
Before contacting the SCBB, discuss your decision with your OB. He or she will make sure that you are a viable candidate for donation. Furthermore, it is your OB (or the person who delivers your baby) who will be responsible for collecting the cord blood.
If your OB gives you the thumbs up, give the SCBB a call. You will be asked to complete a pre-screening questionnaire about your family and personal medical history.
Finally, you will meet the donor coordinator to complete the informed consent process. This can be done after the 32nd week or pregnancy and MUST be completed before your admission to hospital to bring bub into the world. Be prepared to answer some very detailed questions about your medical and sexual history mama and dada!
Private Cord Banking Companies in Singapore
Cryoviva officially started business in January 2014 and is, therefore, somewhat the new kid on the block when it comes to cord blood banking in Singapore.
Length of time in operation: 3 years
Ship cord blood abroad? Unknown
Number of storage facilities: 1 (KK Women’s and Children Hospital). Cryoviva rents its storage facility from the SCBB.
Accreditation: Cryoviva’s contracted laboratory is accredited by both the AABB (American Association of Blood Banks) and the CAP (College of American Pathologists).
Useful to know: Cryoviva offers a guarantee that, if the blood unit stored with them is not viable for transplant, the best available matched cord blood unit, or US$25,000 toward meeting the costs of obtaining a matched sample will be provided. It is also important to note that Cryoviva rents their facility from the Singapore Cord Blood Bank (SCBB). What will happen when/if this agreement comes to an end is somewhat unclear.
Typical costs: Undisclosed
Read More: Cryoviva Singapore
Length of time in operation: 15 years
Ship cord blood abroad? Yes
Number of storage facilities: 2 in Singapore X globally
Useful to know: The donation is split and stored in two locations. This can give you full security and peace of mind that you will be covered for all eventualities. Another advantage of Stemcord is that they offer membership fees rebate for Mount Alvernia Hospital and 50% off the antenatal class fees.
Typical costs: Undisclosed
Read more: StemCord Singapore
Cordlife is the longest running private cord bank in Singapore, so you can rest easy that you will benefit from experience and expertise.
Length of time in operation: 16 years
Ship cord blood abroad? Yes
Number of storage facilities: 1
Useful to know:
Typical costs: Upfront initial payment of around $2000 SGD and then annual payments of $250 until the child reaches 21. A new contract will need to be negotiated once the child passes the age of 21.
Read more: Cordlife Singapore