Not sure what cord blood banking is? MH checks with the experts.
WORDS CHERYLENE RENEE
So, you’re expecting a baby – congratulations! There’s a host of things to do in preparation for the newest addition to your family. There’s adorable little baby clothes to buy, cribs to set up, and an entire home waiting to be baby-proofed. You will also find yourself beset with a tonne of choices to make. Will you opt for a C-section or natural labour? Will you attend pre-natal yoga? And what will you name the baby? So many decisions, so little time!
Another decision to add to the mix is one that’s increasingly popular today – whether you should plan on banking your cord blood. This one simple act has the possibility of saving the life of your family someday down the line, so it is unquestionably a big decision all expectant parents should take into consideration.
What is Cord Blood?
As your baby grows inside you, he receives life-giving nutrients from the placenta in your womb. These nutrients, along with oxygen and waste, are all channelled through the umbilical cord.
The blood found here, running within the vein of the umbilical cord itself, is otherwise known as ‘cord
blood’. Cord blood does not cease to be useful once pregnancy is over.
On the contrary, this substance has been found to be
remarkably useful even years later.
How Cord Blood Banking Works
You’ve endured hour after hour of excruciating labour, and you have finally delivered your precious little one! If you have opted to store your baby’s cord blood, here is what will happen in the next few moments. Right after your baby is delivered, the umbilical cord is clamped tightly and cut. This is when your doctor inserts a needle into the cord’s umbilicus vein, from which cord blood is carefully collected into a sterile bag. “[The] cord blood is collected while waiting for the placenta to separate,” explains William Hwang, medical director at the Singapore Cord Blood Bank.
The collection comes to an end once the placenta has been completely expelled from your womb. The entire process spans mere minutes – and some mums don’t even realise that it has been carried out. “Regardless of a vaginal birth or a C-section, the process of collecting your baby’s cord blood and cord lining is safe, painless, and non-disruptive to both mother and child,” says Dr Li Ming Ming, laboratory director at Cordlife Group Limited, a private cord banking facility in Singapore.
The cord blood is then inspected, documented, tested for infectious diseases, and finally prepared for long-term preservation. The cord blood is safely frozen in storage tanks at -150 degrees Celcius, where it remains until it is required for use.
Harvesting Stem Cells from Cord Blood
The practice of using cord blood HSCs for medical treatments is an established one, having been carried out around the world for over 25 years. Cord blood is rich in Haematopoietic Stem Cells (HSCs).
Dr Li explains that HSCs are “primarily ‘blood-forming’ stem cells that help to replenish blood and regenerate the immune system.” She adds that HSCs also “have the unique ability to differentiate into various types of cells found in the body.” For example, HSCs can differentiate into red blood cells, which transport oxygen to your organs and tissues; white blood cells, which protect the body against infection and disease; or even platelets, which aid in blood clotting.