Skip to main content
19 October 2022

Busted: top myths of cord blood banking

Sort out the facts from the myths and then make a decision about whether or not to store your child's cord blood stem cells.

Cord blood banking is the process of storing your newborn's stem cells after birth, which are found in the blood of the umbilical cord. Although cord blood banking has been available in Singapore for more than 20 years, there are still many misconceptions about it.

Since you only get one chance to bank your child's cord blood, it's critical that you get it right. The first thing you should do is arm yourself with accurate information. In this article, we round up five common misconceptions people have about cord blood and cord blood banking.

Myth 1: If my child becomes ill, he won't be able to use his own cord blood for treatment.

Fact: Whether a child’s cord blood can be used to treat himself depends on the type of condition diagnosed as well as the age at which the diagnosis is made. If the condition is genetic, it is not recommended that the child receive his own cord blood. In such cases, his sibling's cord blood may open up medical treatment options. Also, it's always easier to find a good match among family members than among strangers. If the condition is caused by environmental factors, the child will be able to receive his own cord blood. Cancer, for example, has been shown in studies to be caused by genetics in only about 5% to 10% of the cases. Environmental factors account for the remaining cases.* Patients with neuroblastoma can be treated with their own cord blood.

Myth 2: Cord blood can only treat blood disorders.

Fact: Cord blood contains blood-forming cells that can treat more than just blood disorders. Studies have shown that blood-forming cells can help in the treatment of more than 80 diseases, including leukaemia, lymphoma, and neuroblastoma. There are also ongoing clinical trials and studies that could help people in the future who have diseases that can't be cured, like cerebral palsy, and autism.

Myth 3: If I need stem cells in the future, I can always find a bone marrow donor.

Fact: Using stem cells from cord blood, especially from a relative, is better than using bone marrow in many ways. Finding a match for cord blood is easier because cord blood doesn't have to be a perfect match for the recipient. If your family has privately banked cord blood, you can simply retrieve it for treatment right away. On the other hand, bone marrow has to match the recipient perfectly. You may have to waste time, money, and effort looking for a perfect bone marrow match across the country or even the world. Obtaining stem cells from bone marrow is also a difficult, painful, and risky process, whereas cord blood collection is simple, painless, and safe for both mother and child. The risk of graft-versus-host disease is lower in autologous cord blood stem cell transplants (in which the donor and recipient are the same person) than in bone marrow transplants.

Myth 4: Collecting cord blood affects delivery and takes blood away from the baby.

Fact: Cord blood is only collected after the umbilical cord has been clamped and cut. During the procedure, both mother and child are safe and comfortable. Those who do not want their cord blood collected will usually have it discarded as medical waste.

Myth 5: All cord blood banks are the same.

Fact: Cord blood banks are not all the same. Quality, experience, and the technology used to collect, process, and store cord blood vary. The Parent's Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, an educational resource for parents, recommends that parents choose a family cord blood bank that has met at least one accreditation standard, such as the AABB or FACT Netcord. You should also choose a family cord blood bank with a proven track record of successful cord blood releases. This lets you know that your child's stem cells will be stored in the best possible conditions so that they can be used in the future.

This article was adapted from "Young Parents", Issue Nov 2017.

*Anand P, Kunnumakara AB, Sundaram C, et al. “Cancer is a preventable disease that requires major lifestyle changes”. Pharm Res. 2008;25(9):2097–2116. Accessed Sept 25, 2017.