A Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Dr. Joseph Akinde, has urged pregnant women not to resist calls to donate umbilical cord blood for banking for future use.
Donated umbilical cord blood, according to the specialist, will help reduce the cost of treatment of patients with sickle cell disease requiring bone marrow transplantation.
Dr. Akinde made the call on Saturday during an interview with PUNCH HealthWise. The gynaecologist explained,
“Pregnant women should not resist the call by experts to donate umbilical cord blood. They should not attach spiritual or cultural sentiment to it. Donation of umbilical cord blood is like adult donating his blood for an accident victim or someone requiring blood for surgery.
Cord blood contains blood-forming stem cells, which are potentially useful for treating diseases that require stem cell transplants such as sickle cell disease.
“So, a cord-blood donation is a welcome development. It will help in reducing the cost of treatment of patients with sickle disease especially those requiring bone marrow transplantation.
“And you know that bone marrow transplantation which is the only cure for the sickle disease is expensive. So, the availability of cord blood will reduce the cost.
“This is even very important for pregnant women who have had children with sickle cell disease because they may need it in future.”
Dr. Akinde who is the chairman, Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria, Lagos State chapter, noted that considering its importance in regenerative medicine, if Nigeria women are properly educated about it, they will not resist it. He stated further:
“We need enlightenment and a lot of education around the umbilical cord blood donation and why it should be harvested because it is rich in stem cells.”
He, however, noted that umbilical cord blood banking is a new medical practice in Nigeria, adding that the storage facilities are still scanty but will be available in the next five to ten years after much awareness had been created about its importance in saving lives.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, cord-blood banking means collecting and storing the blood from within the umbilical cord (the part of the placenta that delivers nutrients to a fetus) after a baby is born.
Experts say bone marrow transplantation came to the rescue of patients with sickle cell disease who often require multiple hospital admissions for extended periods due to excessive pain crises, acute chest syndrome or, occasionally and stroke.
Also, according to the World Health Organisation, over 300,000 babies with severe haemoglobin disorders also known as sickle cell disease are born each year.
At least 150,000 children are born with sickle cell disease in Nigeria every year, while about 40 million Nigerians are healthy carriers of the sickle cell gene, says Coalition of Sickle Cell Non-governmental Organisations in Nigeria.
The coalition adds that Nigeria has the biggest burden of the sickle cell scourge globally, hence the need for increased advocacy on its prevention, treatment and management.