As expectant parents, you might have already received a lot of advice on why you should preserve your baby’s umbilical cord after birth. From the benefits of the stem cells in cord blood to the diseases they could treat, to the potential of stem cells to cure various other diseases in the future, you might have heard it all. Many parents consider the option seriously, since the idea of having stem cells available for future use gives them the extra assurance that they are doing everything possible for their baby’s health. But while you’ve taken that into careful consideration, have you properly evaluated your options as to which cord blood banks to bank your baby’s cord blood with?

Choosing a credible and reliable cord blood bank is critical in order to ensure easy retrieval of your baby’s stem cells should you ever need it in the future. What’s more, choosing a bank that follows the highest standards is also necessary to guarantee that your baby’s banked cells are in usable condition whenever the need arises.

So how do you go about choosing the right cord blood bank? What are the  things to keep an eye out for, and what to avoid? We’ve put together a quick guide to help you out with this.

Before You Choose a Stem Cell Bank, Do This

Before we jump right into it, here are some important tips to keep in mind:

  • Make the decision with plenty of time left before your delivery, so that you can carefully review your options without having to rush through them.
  • Inform your doctor or midwife of your decision, so that they can plan and arrange for this in advance.
  • Take time to talk to people you trust, including doctors, friends or family members to help you decide on and choose the right cord blood bank for your family.
  • Bonus tip: The location of the bank is not very important - several banks have their storage facilities in states different from their customers’ locations - the storage standards followed are far more important.

Accreditations and Other Licensing Requirements

To start off, let’s begin with your first concern - the legitimacy of the cord blood bank you choose. There are some ways to check for  this, but the first thing to look for is whether the bank is accredited by the regulatory authorities. Just like a hospital requires certain licenses to operate, a stem cell bank too, as a medical service provider, needs licenses and accreditations to prove its legitimacy.

For example, LifeCell has received accreditations for either cord blood banking or cord tissue processing or both, from organizations including the AABB (American Association of Blood Banks), WHO, FDA, NABL and other regulatory authorities.

Accreditations and licenses help prove that the stem cell bank is legally allowed to operate, and also upholds certain standards, making it a safer choice.

Transit and Safety Standards

After collection following your delivery, the cord blood has to be transported to the stem cell bank’s lab for testing, processing and storage. While these are important steps, ensuring the safety of the blood sample during transit is crucial. Some things that have to be kept in mind include the following:

  • Is the sample sealed and stored such as to avoid any leakages or contact with atmospheric air?
  • Is the sample transported so as to maintain optimal temperature control?

Ask the cord blood bank you are considering about the methods used for sealing and shipping the sample - do they have their own transport services? Do they rely on contractors? How do they maintain the sample’s quality between collection and arrival at the lab?

Testing & Processing Standards

Regulatory authorities in India have set several guidelines about the tests a cord blood sample has to undergo upon collection or retrieval. These include tests for total cell count, stem cell viability, HLA matching, and infectious diseases like Hepatitis, HIV, and more.

Frances Verter, founder of The Parent's Guide to Cord Blood Foundation says, “Agencies that oversee cord blood transplants have set a limit of 48 hours on the time between birth and processing the cord blood for cryogenic storage.” So make sure that your bank processes cord blood within 48 hours after collection.

You might also want to make sure that your cord blood bank’s processing methods ensure the maximum possible extraction of stem cells and minimal RBC poisoning - this makes the stem cells most viable for use in transplants.

Experience and Past Records

Speak to the banks you’re considering about how many of their cord blood units have been used for transplants and other stem cell therapies. This reflects  their ability to handle cord blood processing as well as indicates that they are successful with its clinical applications. Be wary of a bank that has lots of cord blood units but has not used a unit for transplant so far - it may or may not indicate the rejection of their blood by donors.

Financial Stability

Cord blood banks are businesses, and like any business, could go bankrupt. It’s important to look for financial stability to avoid a temporary loss of access to the cord blood units (during transitions) or worrying about whether they were handled properly during the transition.

At LifeCell, utmost care is taken right from collection to transit to processing and storage. It is the most accredited stem cell bank in India, with best in class collection kits that ensure the safety of your cord blood sample during transit. As a community stem cell bank, your child and family has access to LifeCell’s large inventory of stem cells, whenever the need arises. This also helps increase your chances of finding a tissue-matched donor. LifeCell’s  processing technology and cryopreservation methods ensure that your baby’s cord blood cells are kept viable for decades.

Finally, when you do decide on a cord blood bank, ask yourself whether it feels like the right call for you - what’s right for your friends or family may not be right for you. Even if you wish not to go for cord blood banking, you can always consider donating it to help someone in need. The decision-making process can be a time-consuming one, but when you do decide, it’ll eventually be worth the effort!