THE number of parents donating their babies' umbilical cord blood is on the rise, new figures show.
The Singapore Cord Blood Bank (SCBB) - which collects blood to use in transplants here and abroad - said almost 12 per cent of parents of newborns donated to it last year, up from 7 per cent in 2010.
Singapore's private cord blood banks, StemCord and Cordlife, have also seen a steady increase in the number of parents who choose to store their child's cord blood for use only by their own families.
Cordlife chief executive officer Jeremy Yee said: "There is indeed an increasing trend. Our data suggests that as much as 25 per cent of parents are storing their child's cord blood in private banks now."
Cordlife launched Asia's largest private cord blood facility in Yishun last month.
The SCBB attributes the higher numbers to growing awareness of the benefits of donation among parents.
It has nine obstetric hospitals participating in its donation programme - including the KK Women's and Children's Hospital and the National University Hospital - where medical experts and SCBB coordinators can approach and refer expectant mothers.
Many of them have a desire to be "altruistic" and to "help other individuals afflicted with life-threatening conditions", said an SCBB spokesman.
Cord blood donation is quick and painless. After the baby has been delivered and the umbilical cord clamped and cut, blood is drawn from the cord and harvested.
Potential donors sign consent forms from 32 weeks of pregnancy and must submit their family medical history before being confirmed as donors.
Many mothers prefer to donate because they believe others will need the blood more than they will.
Freelance writer Mandy Loh, 34, donated her son's cord blood to the SCBB in 2011. She said: "I found out about the option of donating my child's cord blood through a marketing pamphlet by a private cord blood bank.
"The chance of my son using it for his own treatment is very low, based on current medical technology. But when donated to the public cord blood bank, there would be a much higher chance of the blood being used to save lives."
Madam Srimala Naraya donated cord blood from both her children in 2008 and last year. The 34-year-old homemaker said: "Since there has been no history of major illness in the family, we decided that instead of storing or wasting our children's cord blood, we could help other people who are very much in need."
This story was first published in The Straits Times on May 8, 2013
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