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Public or Family Cord Blood Banking - Which One to Choose

By Cherie Daly, MDDirector, SLD Consulting

Advisor - Parents Guide Cord Blood Foundation

Scientific Board ITERA (International Tissue Engineering Research Association)

When having a baby, parents are faced with many decisions from material decisions (what pram to buy, what cot to purchase, what colour to paint the room) to more serious medical decisions.

One of these medical decisions is what to do with the blood from the umbilical cord of their newborn baby.

Today parents delivering in Singapore have three choices:

  1. Donate to a public bank
  2. Store privately in a family bank
  3. Throw it away

So where do parents “go” for accurate non-bias information to assist them with this decision and to empower them to make an educated decision based on accurate facts.

I always say that each family is unique and what might be the right decision for one family may be the wrong for another.

Parents should carefully research the topic, discuss the options and make their own decision based on non-bias facts.

A good place to start is The Parents Guide to Cord Blood Foundation ( This website gives non-bias accurate information about both public and family cord blood banking. The founder is a mother, with a scientific background, who lost her daughter to cancer and has dedicated her life to this website and informing their parents about cord blood banking and all the options.

What is important to realise is that Public and Private Cord Blood banks store umbilical cord blood samples for different reasons.

Public cord blood banks receive donations of cord blood samples with the specific purpose to be tissue typed and listed on the International Donor Registries (like NMDP and WMDA) for Unrelated Hematopoietic (Blood) Stem Cell Transplants.

Parents store umbilical cord blood samples with a Family Cord Blood Bank for Related Hematopoietic Stem cell Transplants (most likely sibling transplants) and for a few current indications for the need of autologous (one’s own) stem cells (ie Solid tumors and Aplastic Anemia)

Besides the current indications, parents also store cord blood samples privately for the emerging applications using umbilical cord blood stem cells for non-hematopoietic diseases that are currently being research in clinical trials. An example is Cerebral Palsy which is currently being explored in a FDA approved phrase 11 clinical trial at Duke’s University in North Carolina, USA.

Below I have summarised a few facts in table form to help you to understand the differences:


Family donates cord blood and as such relinquishes all rights to the unit Family store cord blood privately for their use only
No cost to donate cord blood Family pays the Private Cord Blood Bank that they choose a fee to process and store the cord blood for them
Sample gets HLA typed and listed on International Donor Registries where it is publically searchable for an unrelated transplant. Sample is not HLA typed, and not listed on any International lists. (Unless requested by the family) Unit is for the child (autologous) and the family only.
60% -80% of public bank donations are rejected and discarded due to numerous reasons. Each Individual private cord blood bank has their different criteria and processes in place to accept or reject samples. Normally the family is fully informed and be given the informed choice to continue with storing. Storage is both for the autologous (self-use) and for related transplant (family members with a HLA match-most likely siblings)
Once the family donates the cord blood they relinquish rights to the sample. Sample is released if a match is found and sample is purchased off one of the International Registries. Sample is released only on request of family and normally at no cost to parents.

As mentioned previously - the topic should be fully researched and understood, parents should ensure they understand all the facts, knowing exactly what cord blood can be used for in both settings and all the pros & cons should also be carefully considered

After this, each family should feel comfortable to make a decision that is right for them.

No choice is the right or wrong decision. Each family is unique and the decision they make is the right one for them.


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