About Cord Blood
Cord blood is the blood left over in the umbilical cord and placenta after a baby is born. Typically, the umbilical cord and placenta are thrown away as medical waste.
Instead of discarding them as waste, you may also have the option to:
If you are an expectant parent, talk with your health care provider about the options that may be available to you. By making an informed decision about your baby’s cord blood, you could possibly give life twice.
Click the links below for answers to frequently asked questions:
Why should I consider saving my baby’s cord blood?
Why should I consider saving my baby’s cord blood?
Cord blood contains blood-forming stem cells that can save the life of a patient with a serious blood disorder such as leukemia, lymphoma or sickle cell disease. These cells can also treat patients with inherited genetic disorders, bone marrow failure and immune deficiency diseases.
The procedure that uses cord blood to save a patient’s life is called a cord blood transplant. It is similar to a bone marrow or stem cell transplant.
How is cord blood collected?
After your baby is delivered, the umbilical cord is clamped and blood from the umbilical cord and placenta are put into a sterile bag with a blood thinner to prevent it from clotting. No blood is taken from your baby.
Collecting the cord blood is painless for both the mother and child, and does not interfere in any way with your labor or the baby’s delivery.
How can I donate cord blood to a public cord blood bank?
Thousands of patients have received a second chance at life because many families around the world have made the generous decision to donate their baby’s cord blood stem cells to a public cord bank. The steps are easy, but they do vary somewhat from country to country.
Between the 28th and 34th week of your pregnancy, talk to your obstetrical physician or other health care provider about your interest in donating your baby’s cord blood.
Information about donating cord blood in the United States can be found on the Be The Match website that is maintained by the National Marrow Donor Program. The website provides donation guidelines and lists U.S. hospitals that collect cord blood for public use. Information is also available for many other countries. Unfortunately, not every hospital offers cord blood donation.
Is there a fee charged for donating my baby’s cord blood to a public bank?
No. There is no fee to donate to a public cord blood bank.
Will the patient who uses my baby’s cord blood know my identity?
No. The identity of you and your child will be kept confidential. Your baby’s cord blood will be labeled with a number, not your child’s name.
How do I save my baby’s cord blood for use only by my family?
You have two options.
If your baby currently has a family member with a disease that can be treated with a cord blood transplant, you may be able to store your baby’s cord blood at little or no cost in a public cord bank or a private family cord blood bank, depending on the services available where you plan to deliver your baby.
You can also store your baby’s cord blood in a private family cord blood bank for your family’s future use, should the need arise. Private family banks generally are not associated with a particular hospital. The mother is sent a collection kit to give to her doctor or other health care provider for use at the time of delivery.
Is there a fee for saving my baby’s cord blood in a private family bank?
Yes. Private family banks charge a processing fee and a storage fee. In the United States, the storage fee typically is charged annually. Throughout Europe, the storage fee for 20 or more years is often included in the initial processing fee. Nations elsewhere vary as to which business model they follow.
How do I find a reputable private family cord blood bank?
Contact one of the private family cord blood banks affiliated with the Cord Blood Association. Additional details about these and other private family cord blood banks can found on the Parent's Guide To Cord Blood Foundation website.
You’ll want to be sure the cord blood bank is accredited by AABB or the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy. These organizations have standards and inspections to ensure that the cord blood is collected safely, and handled in a way that protects the quality of the cord blood cells.
What is the likelihood that my baby will use the privately stored cord blood at a later date?
The chance of your baby ever needing his or her own cord blood cells is very, very low, but not zero. For instance, if your child develops a blood cancer like leukemia and needs a stem cell transplant, your child’s own cord blood cells would not be used because the cells that caused the disease might be in the child’s cord blood. Donor cells, or sibling cells, would do a better job fighting the disease.
However, research is under way to determine whether, in the future, cord blood stem cells can cure other medical problems not currently treated by a cord blood transplant, such as birth asphyxia, cerebral palsy and autism. Although these therapies are not yet available as part of standard medical practice, they are being evaluated in ongoing clinical trials and may prove useful in the future.
How likely is it that another family member can use my baby’s stored cord blood?
Currently, the likelihood that a family member will use your child’s stored cord blood is quite small. Whether your child’s cord blood can help a family member who needs a transplant depends on several factors.
First, the number of cells in a single collection or “unit” of cord blood must be sufficient for transplant. Adult patients typically require more cells than are contained in a single unit. However, techniques are now under investigation that could expand the number of cells in a cord blood unit, which would increase the dose available for a transplant patient .
Second, cord blood cells have genetic markers called human leukocyte antigens (HLA) that need to closely match those of the patient. Brothers and sisters with the same biological parents have a 25 percent chance of matching one another. Other family members are much less likely to be a match.
If there is a child in your family who has a blood cancer like leukemia or an inherited blood disease like thalassemia or sickle cell anemia, consider saving your baby’s cord blood for that child’s future use. You can store it in either a public bank or a private family bank that has a sibling-donor program. You can also consider this option if you’re at risk of conceiving a child with a genetic disorder, like sickle cell disease, that can be treated with a cord blood transplant.
Researchers are currently studying whether cord blood cells can help patients with other disorders such as birth asphyxia, cerebral palsy, Type I diabetes, stroke and autism. Results from these studies will be available over the next several years, and should help shed light on whether patients with these disorders can be helped by cord blood stem cells. For more information about current clinical studies see clinicaltrials.gov.
Can privately stored cord blood later be donated to a public bank?
No. Regulations in most countries do not allow cord blood that has been stored in a private bank to later be donated to a public bank.
Where can I find other information about cord blood banking and transplants?
You are invited to explore this Cord Blood Association website for additional information such as:
Disease Indications – diseases for which cord blood therapies are currently used, and those in which cord blood use is being studied.
Research Advances – banking and therapeutic use of cord blood and related birthing tissues recently reported in the medical literature and at scientific meetings.
Here are some additional trusted sources of information on the web.