Should I store or donate my baby’s cord blood?
(Please don't ever discard it - it is a huge waste of resources that could have otherwise been used to save someone else's life or even just to do further clinical research on.)
This is a pretty debatable issue and there's a wide range of opinions on this topic. While my gynae encouraged it, I've also heard from readers who believe that it'll be better to donate rather than to pay a fee to store one's baby cord blood privately.
Feeling lost, I turned to the ever-supportive community of mummies on Dayre (#dayremummies), and sought their advice on what they had chosen to do for their child(ren) when they were born. Some said they banked it privately (most mentioned they did it with Cordlife), but a significant number also told me that they chose to donate their baby's cord blood to the public bank, Singapore Cord Blood Bank (SCBB).
There is basically no charge to donors for the collection and banking of cord blood with SCBB (so you don't have to foot a single cent for the processing and cryopreservation), but as a result, it will be publicly available and no longer the property of the parents or the child.
The reasons many mummies gave for preferring to donate (instead of storing it privately) were:
1. If your child develops a genetic disease, it is unlikely that you can use the cord blood cells anyway since those stem cells will also contain the same genetic defect.
|Source: Cordlife website|
2. If your sample is not used by anyone else, it will be stored without you having to pay anything and you'll be put on the priority list to use it later if your need arises.
Although this is true, the problem is that there is no guarantee your cord blood stem cells will still be there when you need it, as no one knows what the future holds. The public bank is open to patients not just in Singapore, but those all around the world who are searching for a match as well. There is therefore no assurance that your cord blood unit will still be there for your family when you need it.
But take a look at this:
"SCBB manages both donors and non-donors in the same manner. If a donor's cord blood unit is still in storage at that time, it will be available for the patient who benefits most from it; this could be the donor or someone else."
"Public cord blood banks, such as the SCBB, do not reserve any cord blood units for the specific family's usage."
And because SCBB doesn't tell you whether your sample was viable for donation and storage, many parents might just be living under the false impression that their baby's cord blood is still in the public blood, only to find out much later that it was discarded years ago. I asked some of the mummies who told me they had donated their baby's cord blood to help me check if their sample was successfully accepted and still there, and these were the results:
3. If your sample is not viable for storage, you can also opt for SCBB's conversion program for family banking and store it privately.
This is a fairly new initiative launched by SCBB (in Feb 2018), so it wasn't available to parents who donated their newborn's cord blood previously.
Basically, SCBB has relatively high requirements - for a viable donor sample to be accepted, it needs to contain at least 1.3 billion hematopoietic stem cells. However, if the cell count falls short and your baby's cord blood gets rejected, you can also opt for their conversion program where you store it in their family bank. The minimum for this private storage will then be 400 million stem cells.
Costs wise, we spoke with SCBB and were told that it'll cost us $1,900 for the first 5 years, and $1,000 for every 5-year block thereafter. In other words, it'll cost $4,900 if we wish to store with SCBB for 20 years, which works out to be pretty much the same as what it'll cost us to bank with one of the private banks right from the start.
(I'm also in the midst of doing up a comparison table between all the three local private banks - Cordlife, Stemcord and Cryoviva - and will share that shortly once I'm done.)
|Costs verified again with SCBB by another reader, shortly after I spoke with them.|
When I asked the SCBB representative as to whether delayed cord clamping could still be done in tandem with cord blood collection, she said no, as it reduces the blood volume and therefore the number of stem cells left is unlikely to be viable for donation (1.3 billion cells) and/or storage. However, the private banks told me differently, as their requirements are much lower in terms of the cell count (200 million minimum).
At the end of the day, whether one makes the decision to donate to a public cord blood bank or to store for one's private usage in the future is very much a personal choice. Aside from the reasons listed above, I see two other very compelling factors for private banking instead:
- Minority groups (or those who are ethnically-mixed) have a much lower chance of finding a suitable match through public cord blood banks.
- Private cord blood banking isn't that expensive vs. the cost of procuring a suitable sample from the public / worldwide database (up to $65,000!!!)
At just $5,000 to store my baby's cord blood till they reach age 21 (or just under $20 a month), I honestly think that's a small price to pay for a form of insurance that not only protects, but can potentially even treat or cure the condition.
Name me any other insurance policy that does that!