Cord blood banking: What you need to know

If you’re currently pregnant, your ob/gyn may have asked you about whether you would consider banking some cord blood. You were probably given a pamphlet about it, with some information to this relatively new practice. If you’ve never heard of cord blood banking though, no worries, here’s a quick summary.

Cord blood is the blood in your baby's umbilical cord and the placenta. It can be collected at birth and stored for future use. Cord blood contains potentially life-saving cells called “stem calls” that can grow into blood vessels, organs, and tissues. It can be banked for private or public use, depending on which option you choose.

Cord blood is collected right after the birth of your baby regardless of whether the baby was delivered naturally or by c-section. The umbilical cord is them clamped in a safe and painless procedure, and does not harm or involve your baby at all. A needle is inserted into the umbilical vein on the part of the cord that's still attached to the placenta and the blood is drained into a storage bag. The entire process takes less than ten minutes. The blood is then shipped to a cord blood bank, where it's tested, processed, and frozen for long-term storage.

To date, cord blood stem cells have been used to treat over 80 different diseases including some cancers, blood disorders and immune deficiencies. Many new applications are now being researched and it is hoped that one day it can be used in the treatment of cerebal palsy and diabetes.

Cord blood banking is a very new development in the medical field and parents who choose to do so often see it as a sort of insurance for the future—cord blood can be banked for about 18 years, after which there will be chance for renewal. Currently the initial cost to perform cord banking will set you back upwards of RM2,000 and there is an annual storage fee of about RM250.

If you choose not to bank cord blood, and let’s face it, it is currently a costly procedure to undergo, you can rest assured that if you do fall ill, you can have access to the public bank of cord blood, through a search from the Malaysian Marrow Donor Registry, however it will be coming from an unrelated donor, therefore there will be a partial mismatch. There are also registries in nearby countries like Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Janice Zheng is a Melbourne-based writer and editor. Born and raised in Singapore, she has also lived in Vietnam, China and Australia. She has written and edited across a variety of genres including hard news, feature articles, technical and specifications writing and press releases. Her coverage of a 2009 Australian oil spill disaster and its impact on the marine environment earned her a nomination to the Professional Online Writers Guild. In 2013, her family moved to China for her husband’s work. She joined the expatriate women’s volunteer-based society and wrote prolifically for its print publications and contributed to other expatriate magazines. Since her return to Australia, Janice has turned to writing and blogging about parenthood.

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