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Blog - Pregnancy & Delivery

Why I Said NO to Cord Blood Banking (and What I Did Instead)

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Hey Singaporean mummies and daddies, congratulations on your exciting journey to parenthood! If you’ve clicked into this article, it must be because you are on the verge on making a decision. Not sure whether you should go ahead with cord blood banking for your baby at birth?

Like you, I was at a similar crossroads. Hence, I want to share my honest thoughts on why I decided to skip cord blood banking for my baby.

What is Cord Blood Banking, Anyway?

Cord blood banking is all about saving the stem cells found in your baby’s umbilical cord after birth for potential use in the future to treat certain diseases in the future.

In Singapore, there are three main ways one can go about doing so:

  • Private Banks: A private company stores your baby’s cord blood for your exclusive use. Think of it like a personal stem cell bank account.
  • Public Family Banks: Similar to private banks, but run by public entities. You still retain exclusive use of your child’s cord blood.
  • Public Donation: Donating your baby’s cord blood to a public registry for anyone who might need it. And in turn, you are able to use cord blood from the same pool, should you require it.

There are several private cord blood banks available in Singapore. You’ll see their booths at most mummy fairs or at the hospitals. BUT there is only ONE public cord blood bank in Singapore – The Singapore Cord Blood Bank.

Why I Would Choose Public Over Private Cord Blood Banking If I Went Down This Route?

When I first started my considerations, public banking felt like the best choice. This was regardless whether I wanted to retain exclusive use or donate it. My reasons are extremely simple:

  • Trust: Singapore’s public cord blood bank is a non-profit organizations which is internationally accredited. This gave me confidence that they have stringent protocols in place to protect the cord blood. On the other hand, private cord banks being profit-driven, might be more interested to protect their own interests then mine. The recent Cordlife scandal is living proof of that!
  • Long-term horizon: Private companies institutions come and go. And who knows what happens to your precious baby’s cord blood in the future should they fold down?

Cord Blood Banking: Let’s Talk Pros and Cons

Public or private cord bank aside, I then went down the rabbit hole of learn more about the pros and cons of this fascinating technology. Call me a geek, but I was a fervent biology student back in the days! That’s also the reason why I could stand sitting in multiple talks by the various cord bank companies, googling in the middle of the night, and chatting with my gynae before coming to my conclusion.

Here’s some of the pros and cons I gleaned from my legwork:

Pros of Cord Blood Banking:

Cons of Cord Blood Banking:

  • Limited Use Cases Currently: While there’s potential for future applications, the current use of cord blood for treatment is relatively limited.
  • High Cost: Private cord blood banking can be quite expensive, with ongoing storage fees. (That was not a consideration for me – I was willing to pay if I could see the value!)
  • Low Probability of Needing It: The chance of a child needing their OWN cord blood for treatment is statistically low. A recent study by the Canadian Blood Services put the chances or cord blood being needed by a child between the range of 0.0004% (one in 250,000) to 0.005%.
  • Storage Uncertainties: Private cord blood banks are for-profit businesses, and there’s a risk of them going out of business in the future. There’s also risk of cord blood not being stored in optimal conditions over the years, and being unable to be of use when required.
  • Rapid Medical Advancements: The medical field is constantly evolving, and new treatments may render cord blood less necessary in the future.

At the end of the day, what I concluded was this: while there was some promise in the future, there’s too much uncertainty for me to choose this particular route.

Want to read up more? Here are some insights about why cord blood banking is such a controversial topic and the different sides to it:

The promise of banking umbilical cord blood (BBC)

The Hope, and Hype, of Cord Blood (The New York Times)

The law and problematic marketing by private umbilical cord blood banks (BMC Medical Ethics)

What I Did Instead: Delayed Cord Clamping

That’s why after looking into the various options, instead of cord blood banking, I opted for delayed cord clamping.

What is Delayed Cord Clamping?

This is where after birth, the doctor waits a few minutes before clamping and cutting the umbilical cord. This allows more blood (and those precious stem cells!) to flow naturally to your baby.

Benefits of Delayed Cord Clamping

Here are some of the reasons why I decided to go ahead with delayed cord clamping instead, as I preferred these more immediate benefits as opposed to the uncertain ones of cord blood banking:

  • Improved Iron Stores: Delayed cord clamping allows more blood rich in iron to flow from the placenta to the baby. This can help prevent iron deficiency anaemia in the first few months of life, especially for babies who are breastfed.
  • Boosted Blood Volume: Extra blood from delayed clamping translates to a higher blood volume for the baby. Considering that babies have small blood volume (due to their size), this extra volume makes a lot of difference for them. The upside? Improving oxygen circulation and potentially reducing the risk of complications like anaemia and breathing problems.
  • Potential Immune System Benefits: The blood in the umbilical cord contains white blood cells and other immune system components. Delayed clamping allows these to pass to the baby, potentially giving their immune system a head start.

Downsides of Delayed Cord Clamping

As with anything, there’s also the downsides to consider:

  • Increased Risk of Jaundice: Newborns with higher blood volume are more likely to develop jaundice, a harmless yellowing of the skin caused by a buildup of bilirubin. However, this is usually mild and easily treated with phototherapy (light therapy).
  • Not Suitable For All Births: There are instances when delayed cord clamping is not advised. In critical situations, like severe maternal bleeding, abnormal placenta complications, or the baby requiring urgent medical attention, doctors will need to prioritize the health of both mother and baby by immediately clamping and cutting the cord.

Fortunately in my case, my planned C-section went extremely smoothly, and we were able to proceed with the delayed cord clamping as planned.

The Bottom Line:

At the end of the day, choosing what to do with your baby’s cord blood is a personal decision, just like everything else in parenthood. This is just one example of how I weighed the pros and cons for my precious little one. But I hope this sharing of my experience helps you navigate your own decision-making process!

Feel free to leave a comment below and share your thoughts on cord blood banking!

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