Cord Blood FAQs
Donating cord blood to our public bank is an altruistic act, as your donation can be made available to a recipient in need anywhere throughout the world.
- + What is cord blood?
After a baby is born and the umbilical cord is cut, some blood remains in the blood vessels of the placenta and the portion of the umbilical cord attached to it. After birth, the baby no longer needs this extra blood. This blood is called placental blood or umbilical cord blood: "cord blood" for short. Cord blood contains all the normal elements of blood - red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma. But it is also rich in hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cells, similar to those found in bone marrow. This is why cord blood can be used for transplantation as an alternative to bone marrow donated by an adult.
- + Are there any risks with donating cord blood?
There are no significant risks. A mother's experience at labor and delivery will not be changed in any way, other than providing us a blood sample and being asked to answer some health-related questions. After the baby is born and the umbilical cord is cut, blood will be collected from the cord and placenta in a separate laboratory room by one of our dedicated technicians. Importantly, the whole collection process requires no time or attention from the obstetrician, and does not interfere with the care the mother and baby will receive.
- + Where can I donate?
To make a cord blood donation to our program, your delivery must occur at one of our partner hospitals where we maintain dedicated staff to collect and process your donation.
- + Why is a mother's blood sample needed?
The maternal blood sample is tested for infectious diseases to reduce the chance of passing one on to a future recipient of her newborn's cord blood.
- + Will my information be kept confidential?
All information collected from the mother and all test results are kept completely confidential. Documentation with a mother's name is kept in a locked file room, and never shared with patients or hospitals that may eventually use the donation. The cord blood unit is disassociated from the donor's name using a unique ID# in our secure database.
- + Does it cost anything?
There is no cost to donate. Our program bears all the cost of collecting, processing, testing, freezing and storing donated cord blood.
- + What are the current recommendations on when the umbilical vein should be clamped?
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) has recommended a delay of at least 60 seconds between delivery and umbilical cord clamping in healthy, full-term babies. It is believed that delayed clamping may have a beneficial effect in the newborn. If expectant parents wish to donate or store cord blood for their own private future use, delayed clamping beyond 60 seconds has been shown to negatively impact the volume and quality of cells collected.
- + Will I be notified if my cord blood donation is ever used?
No, In keeping with our consent and privacy policies, donating mothers and their newborn will not be informed if their cord blood is ever used in a patient.
- + What if I later want my baby's cord blood back?
If your donation met the criteria to be stored in our bank, and provided it has not already been used in a patient or for research, you may reclaim your unit and arrange for it to be sent either to a hospital, or transferred to a private storage company. Please note, many private storage companies will only accept units processed and stored using their own people and equipment.
- + How long does frozen cord blood last?
The truth is we really don't yet know how long cord blood can be stored until it is used in a patient. Our earliest units were processed and stored in liquid nitrogen in 1993, and one of these was used in a stem cell transplant as recently as 2017, over 23 years later. We test our units every year and report results to the FDA. So far we are not aware of any reason to expect any significant deterioration in the quality of our cord blood units due to age.
Why Cord Blood Banking Matters
- + Why are public cord blood banks needed?
Cord blood donated to a public bank provides another source of hope for patients who have no suitably-matched adult stem cell donor either in their own family or in the volunteer registries, or for patients whose disease progression leaves no time to wait for a matching adult to become available to donate.
- + Why is cord blood important for ethnic minorities?
Because ethnic minorities represent a smaller percentage of the overall population (i.e., smaller pool of potential donors, as well as greater variation in tissue-matching type), ethnic minority patients have an especially hard time finding a matching bone marrow donor. For example, caucasian patients find an adult donor about 75 percent of the time, whereas african-american patients find one only about 25 percent of the time. So for ethnic minority patients unable to find a donor, cord blood from a public bank like ours fulfills a critical need by increasing access to stem cell transplantation and a chance for survival.
- + What other treatments might cord blood make possible?
We and others are still investigating the full potential of cord blood, beyond the 80+ diseases that can now be treated with a stem cell (bone marrow) transplant. Cord blood contains rare stem and progenitor cells that might be used to repair damaged tissues in the body, as well as to potentially treat neurologic and other disorders. FDA-regulated cord blood banks like ours play an important role not only in ensuring a safe and high quality supply of source material (cells) for this research, but will help make any breakthroughs arising from this research broadly accessible to patients in need.