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Understanding Cord Blood Banking

What is cord blood and what are the benefits of storing it?

Cord blood is the blood left in the umbilical cord and placenta after the birth of a baby. It contains stem cells that can be used to make new blood cells. Cord blood can help treat a variety of life-threatening illnesses, such as cancer, immune system and blood disorders, and genetic abnormalities. Instead of being thrown away after delivery, cord blood can be collected and stored in a blood bank to be transplanted into another person.

What's the difference between public and private cord blood banks?

Cord blood that is donated to a public cord blood bank is available to anyone in need of a transplant. It is not set aside for a specific family's private use. It may also be used for research purposes. Public cord blood banks do not charge for the collection, processing or storage of cord blood. Many medical professional organizations support the donation of cord blood to public cord blood banks.

Storing a baby's cord blood in a private cord blood bank means it can be used only by that child (or a family member) if needed. Private cord blood banks charge collection fees as well as annual storage fees. Some medical professional organizations do not support the routine storage of cord blood in private blood banks.

What happens to the cord blood once it is donated?

After the cord blood is collected, it is taken to a blood bank where it is tested to make sure:
  • The sample has enough blood-forming cells for future use
  • The mother is eligible to be a donor based on a review of her health history
  • The cord blood and the mother's blood are free from infection or other possible problems

If these standards are met, the cord blood is frozen and stored.

Cord blood that is stored in a public bank is listed on the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) Registry, so it can be available for transplantation in a patient who is a match.

What are the chances that my child will need his or her cord blood?

The chances of a child needing his or her own cord blood stem cells in the future are very small. Estimates range from one in 1,000 to one in 200,000, according to research published in the Journal of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology. Private umbilical cord blood banking may be most valuable to parents with an older child who has a medical condition. The older child could potentially benefit from the transplant of cord blood from the younger sibling.

How do I donate my baby's cord blood?

If you decide to donate to a public cord blood bank, check if your hospital collects cord blood for public donation. If it does, contact the public bank to confirm that you are eligible to donate (you will have to complete a health questionnaire and consent form). If your hospital does not work with the public cord blood bank in your area, contact the blood bank directly to see if they can still help you donate.

If you decide to donate to a private cord blood bank, they will send you a collection kit after you sign up. You will be responsible for bringing the collection kit to the hospital. Your doctor will use it to collect the cord blood after delivery.

Does it cost anything to donate cord blood?

Private cord blood banks charge a fee for the initial processing of cord blood. They also charge an annual storage fee. Ask your doctor if there are any extra costs for collecting the cord blood at the time of delivery. Public banks do not charge for collecting or storing cord blood.

How long can cord blood be stored before it expires?

Studies show that stored cord blood may be good for up to ten years but researchers are still trying to determine the best storage life of cord blood units.

Once the decision to donate is made, what are the next steps?

Talk to your doctor as soon as you decide to donate your cord blood. Then contact the hospital where you expect to deliver to see if they work with a public cord blood bank in your area. You can also contact any major university medical center in your state to find out if they accept public cord blood donations. The National Marrow Donor Program publishes a list of U.S. hospitals that collect cord blood for public cord blood banks.

Where can I get more information about cord blood donation?

If you think you might be interested in donating your baby's cord blood, talk to your doctor. You can also get more information from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Marrow Donor Program

Last updated February 1, 2010




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