Should I store my baby cord blood ?
It is a very common question asked by my patients during the clinic consultation.
As cord blood storage is increasingly popular, partly due to commercial advertisement by the private cord blood banks, the parents must thoroughly understand its advantages before making any decision to subscribe to this service.
What is cord blood ?
Cord blood is the blood circulating in the umbilical cord to provide oxygen and food to the baby. Cord blood contains rich amount of stem cells. The estimated volume of cord blood for a matured baby is around 50 to 80 mls.
How the cord blood is collected, processed and stored ?
The cord blood storage in this country is operated by the 4 private companies. The patients who are interested to store their baby cord blood need to contact the private cord blood bank for the service.
Once the agreement is signed between the parents and private cord blood bank, the doctor in charge will collect the cord blood immediately after the delivery of the baby.
The cord blood is squeezed from the umbilical cord for collection
The cord blood will be stored in a plastic container and delivered to the cord blood bank for processing and storage.
During the proccessing stage, the cord blood is checked for any bacterial contamination, blood grouping and the amount of stem cells available.
The cord blood is frozen by liquid nitrogen for life long storage.
What is the different between private cord blood bank and public cord blood bank ?
A private cord blood bank is a profit based service where the patients store their baby cord blood for their own use.
A public cord blood bank is usually operated by the government to encourage cord blood donation to someone who need the compatible cord blood for disease treament. It means you donate your baby cord blood for someone else who needs it.
Unfortunately, the public cord blood bank is not available in Malaysia.
What type of diseases can be cured by cord blood ?
Cord blood is not a magic medicine to treat all the diseases. In fact, the numbers of diseases that can be treated by cord blood is very limited.
Until today, cord blood is only useful to treat blood related diseases, eg: Leukemia (白血病), Thalassemia (地中海贫血) , Aplastic anemia (再生障碍性贫血).
The treatment for other common diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney diseases are not established.
Leukemia is not a common disease to happen. It is etimated that only 1 in 7,000 population may suffer from this disease. In other words, if 7,000 parents store the cord blood for their children future usage, only 1 of them eventually need to use it. The remaining 6,999 parents are going to waste their money.
Furthermore, leukemia and Thalassemia are the family inherited diseases. The chance of having the diseases are extremely low if there is no prior family history.
What type patients should store their baby’ cord blood?
1) Those parents with family history of inherited blood diseases , eg: Leukemia, Thalassemia
2) Those parents who have strong confidence in stemcell technology and they believe in the potential of this technology to treat more new diseases in the future.
What is the cost of storage ?
Different private cord blood bank charge different rate. Generally, the first payment is around RM 2500, followed by yearly subscription fee of RM 250 for 21 years.
What are the disadvantages of cord blood storage from medical point of view ?
1) Upon the delivery of the newborn baby, the newborn needs to expand the lung to breath. During this process, some amount of cord blood need to flow into lung vessel to assist lung expansion.
In cord blood storage, the umbilical cord will be clamped early for collection purpose. Early clamping of umbilical cord will deny the cord blood from flowing into the lung blood vessel.
2) Collection of cord blood may delay the placenta delivery by the doctor. As a result, the mother may suffer from more blood loss after the delivery.
3) Occasionally, the cord blood maybe contaminated by bacteria during the collection process.
As the educated parents, you need to make an intelligent and wise decision before spending your hard-earned money on a new technology which may not be useful in the future.