Associate Professor Mary Rauff, Senior Consultant at National University Hospital (NUH), faculty at NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and member of Singapore Cord Blood Bank's Board of Directors, talks about advocacy for cord blood donation and its misconceptions.

What motivates you to talk about cord blood donation with expectant mothers or couples?
Public awareness of cord blood donation has increased over the years but there will always be expectant mothers, especially first-time mothers, who need help to make an informed decision.
Very often, expectant mothers know that donating their baby’s cord blood can save someone’s life but hold back due to various concerns and fears. When I initiate the conversation with them, it is an opportunity to explain the process in detail and address their concerns.
How do you broach the topic with them?
I usually approach expectant mothers when they are into their 34th or 35th week of pregnancy. By then, you know if the pregnancy is stable.
It helps when I start by asking if they have thought about donating and storing their baby’s cord blood and its uses. I will then answer common questions which follow, such as the differences between storing and donating the cord blood; the potential risks and advantages; and the process and eligibility criteria.
I don’t expect them to respond right away, but always encourage them to take time to discuss and to consider the options carefully. They may be unsure, but as a clinician, what I do is ask them: If you are not planning to store it for yourselves, why not consider donating it and helping someone in need? 
How is cord blood collected and what happens to it?
The umbilical cord blood is collected after the baby is delivered and the cord has been clamped and cut by the obstetrician. The process takes about two minutes with nurses playing an integral role to ensure that cord blood is properly collected.
The cord blood will be evaluated for volume, cell count, viability, clots, infectious and genetic diseases. This ensures that only samples of the highest quality are banked and made available. 
What are common misconceptions that you’ve had to dispel?
One is that cord blood can treat any disease. The truth is that cord blood has been used effectively only in blood-borne conditions like leukaemia and severe immune-deficiency disorders like thalassemia.
Another is that when you store your baby’s cord blood in a public bank, you have no control of the donated unit and you may not be able to use it when needed. If your child suffers from a blood-borne disease, it is actually not advisable to use the child’s own cord blood for treatment. Donating cord blood to a centralised public cord blood bank like SCBB increases the chances of finding a match.
A strong supporter of cord blood donation, Prof Rauff has been referring her patients to Singapore Cord Blood Bank (SCBB) since 2006, before she became a member of its Board of Directors four years later. Around 20 units from her cord blood collection have been used to save lives in Singapore and around the world. She is currently working on potential ways to extract more stem cells from cord blood collected for transplantation.
Singapore Cord Blood Bank's only six-time donor


When Ms Seri Rahayu Othman, 30, was pregnant with her first child seven years ago, she was approached by a Donor Recruitment Coordinator from Singapore Cord Blood Bank (SCBB) who shared with her the benefits of cord blood and how a simple act of donation can offer hope for patients with blood related diseases.   


Now, Ms Rahayu, a primary school teacher and mother of six, has donated cord blood at all six of her pregnancies.  

“If the birth of my child can save help save someone’s life one day, then why not donate? After all, the process only takes a couple of minutes and you don’t feel any pain.”


In Singapore, every year, about 40% - 60% of patients needing a haematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) to survive are unable to find a suitable stem cell match from bone marrow donors and other public cord blood banks.  Patients are more likely to find a good stem cell match amongst donors from their own ethnic group, so it is crucial to increase the number of donors to match the ethnicity of the population.

The Singapore Cord Blood Bank (SCBB) is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

The Republic’s only non-profit public cord blood bank offers expectant parents the option to donate cord blood after the delivery of their baby. Cord blood, rich in stem cells, can be used to treat life-threatening blood-related diseases such as lymphoma and leukaemia. Cord blood donation increases the public cord blood inventory for patients seeking a transplant to survive. Cord blood donation costs nothing to expectant parents.
Since it was set up in 2005, SCBB has facilitated over 175 Cord Blood Transplants, for patients in Singapore and around the world with blood-related conditions. Without this stem cell resource, many of these patients would otherwise succumb to their diseases. About 70 per cent of patients who need transplant do not have a match in their family. They have to turn to donor registries such as public cord blood banks to find a suitable match.
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