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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Cord Blood Banking: Should I? With who?

In my wife's previous pregnancies, we were struggling with the question of whether or not we should collect our babies' cord blood, and with which company should we bank it with. We didn't quite get to that part of choosing a company since we decided not to collect it at that point in time after doing some research online.

In the past, what I learned from my research are:

1. While it is very hard to determine the likelihood of the banked cord blood being used, we do know that the probability is very low. Some say is 1:1,000; some say is 1:2,700 and even 1:10,000. Therefore it is more of an insurance.

2. Some websites (such as those from public bodies) recommend that it is better to store it with public blood bank instead of private blood bank. The main advantage for that is that it's free, and your blood may actually be used to help someone else in need, since the probability of you or your family actually needing it is very low. Also, since the likelihood of using your blood is quite small, should you need it, chances are, it'll still be there for you to use. The problem with public cord blood bank is that it's not available everywhere and to everyone. For example, as far as I know, in Malaysia, there is only 1 public blood bank, which is our National Blood Centre (Pusat Darah Negara) and the donor has to deliver in Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL). Therefore if you are delivering in other hospitals, you won't be able to donate. Not sure if it is still the case now, feel free to call them and ask. You can go to this page directly to read about the cord blood services offered by our National Blood Centre or you can call and find out more. The number to call is +603 - 2693 3888. (Please note that the National Blood Centre website is in Bahasa Malaysia, not English)

3. The use of stem cells is still in the early stage of research, eventhough the potential is great (I believe).

4. The blood collected often is only enough to use it on a kid or a small adult. So when the time comes, it may not be enough for you to use.

5. That there is absolutely nothing wrong in storing your baby's cord blood in private blood bank, if you can afford it.

6. I absolutely hate those private blood bank's guilt and fear inducing advertisements to make parents feel like their baby's life is at stake if they don't store his/her cord blood, and that they can only be considered as "good" parents if they do so. What a load of rubbish! In my opinion, if you have limited resources ($$), I personally think that it is much more practical that you use that money to get a medical / insurance plan for you and your family first. But that's just me. Oh well, unfortunately, this is how the private blood banks make a living LOL! By playing on parents' fears and guilt, gently.

This time around, we felt that we are financially ready to store our 3rd child's cord blood. If you're still asking whether should you or should you not store your baby's cord blood, the answer is very simple:

"Bank your baby's cord blood if you can afford it, and if you believe in it's usefulness."

Our next question is which company should we store it with. Public banking is more or less out of question for us since we are not delivering our baby in HKL. There are currently 4 companies that I know that are offering private cord blood banking services in Malaysia. They are:

1. Stemlife Berhad
2. CryoCord Sdn. Bhd.
3. CellSafe International
4. StemTech International

There may be more. Please do let us know if you know of any other private cord blood bank operating in Malaysia.

When I was doing my research, I came across this blog that talks about one of the above companies being unscrupolous and unethical such as storing Hep B infected cord blood unit. I'm not going to say which company it is, but I strongly recommend reading it, especially the comments, they are very informative. By the time you reach the 50th comment (probably much earlier), you'd more or less figure out which company it's talking about LOL! Of course, always take such websites with a pinch of salt, and always do your own research. What they say may or may not be true. So read it, and decide for yourself what you want to do with that information. Anyway, the blog is called 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Use Co. X.

When you are considering which company to use, one of the comments from the above website came out with a few questions to ask when you call these companies, which I think is very useful. The comment is reproduced below:
  • 47. | August 10, 2007 at 2:08 am

    hi june and madam tan,i dare not recomend u to any cord blood banks in particular.coz dun want u to think im solicitating for them.what u can do is, call up the other two co.firstly ask them,are they taking in Hep carrier baby’s sample?
    secondly, do they take maternal blood?
    thirdly,do they have a certified cleanroom?
    once these questions are all a yes, then u can proceed asking them their pricing,promotions etc.
    hope this help….oh btw,there are 2 more co. out there june. so go find out about it….

Now, the next step for us is to call these companies and interogate them LOL! At the moment, my gut feeling is leaning towards CryoCord Sdn. Bhd. since it ticks most of the boxes. I will definitely let you know of my findings and decision once I called up these companies.

Last but not least, I would recommend a few very good websites and articles for you to read. One of the excerpt that I really like is taken from the article "Private Cord Blood Banking - Some Salient Questions And Straight Answers" by Dr. Ng Soo Chin. He says:

"I have no problems with people storing cord blood for own use later. Neither have I had any qualms about private companies collecting storing cord blood stem cells. My concern is that as consumers the parents are not being presented with the whole truth and this is not acceptable from viewpoint of good clinical practice. I am also concerned about the ‘entrapment syndrome’—the private cord blood Co can present various reasons to up their fees in the future and I don’t think the consumers have very little to fight back. What if the company folds? Despite being claimed as a form of medical insurance, I agreed with Dr Mitchell Cairo (Pediatric oncologist and stem cell researcher) that insurance should have a definable pay-offs and not on theoretical considerations. Perhaps, parents should instead invest on educational or health insurance for the baby rather than on something nebulous as private cord blood banking!"

LOL! Now THAT's a thought! Anyway, some websites and articles for your viewing pleasures:

1. The Health Minister Speaks Up Against Cord Blood Storage Hype
2. Private Cord Blood Banking - Some Salient Questions And Straight Answers
3. Parents' Guide To Cord Blood Foundation - A very comprehensive guide to cord blood banking for international readers since it has information on many of the public and private blood banking companies through out the world, including Malaysia.
4. AABB website.

Well, that's all from me this time. Hope you find it useful. Will update y'all on my findings later. Do leave us a comment or email us if you have any additional information.



Khairul said...

hi.. first of all, very informative content and blog... second, it's hard to find a father who actually blog about babies here in Malaysia (maybe I didn't look hard enough). Congrats..

back to the topic of storing cord blood/stem cell, I heard a story some time ago on how these institution kept the stem cell. It was said that they gave animal cells as food for the stem cells to stay healthy and keep multiplying.. the only problem is, over time the stem cell will mutate to become somewhat its food; the animal cell.. I don't know just how truthful it is, but it really makes me think twice on the stem cell part...

Daddy-O said...

Hi Khairul,

Sorry for taking a LONG time to reply to your post. I have been very busy and didn't really have time for this blog ever since my 3rd child was born LOL! Hopefully I can find time to work on this blog again soon.

Thanks for your information about animal cells being food for stem cells. Frankly I have not heard about it and if I do find some information on it, I will get back to you. If it's true, it's kinda scary :(

Cord Blood said...

I've read that it is better to donate the cord blood to a public blood bank. For many diseases it isn't recommended that the baby use it's own blood. Besides if everyone donated the blood there'd be more available for children who ARE sick and less blood wasted sitting around for those that likely will NEVER become ill. I plan to donate my baby's cord blood.

James said...

HI, i like your post.

Sarah said...

I understand your points. The commercials like that are annoying yes, but not all blood banks are like that. Plus, if you have the money, why not be preventative about it if you can? Don't get me started on the health insurance industry, as they are not exactly "the good guys" in all of this. Either way, we chose to bank with Stemcyte and we're very happy about our decision.

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