Cord Blood Frequently Asked Questions
What is cord blood?
Cord blood is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta following birth of a baby. Cord blood is routinely discarded with the placenta and umbilical cord.
Why is cord blood important?
Cord blood is a valuable source of potentially life-saving stem cells, which can be used to treat leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia and other inherited disorders. A cord blood unit has the advantage of not needing to match a patient's tissue type as closely as required for bone marrow transplants.
How is cord blood collected?
After the baby is born, umbilical cord blood is usually collected by a health care provider. The collection takes a few minutes and is safe. There is no discomfort associated with cord blood collection and neither the mother nor her baby is endangered by the collection.
Who can use donated cord blood?
Patients around the world, along with their families and friends, are searching for a matching bone marrow donor or cord blood unit. These patients have cancer and other life-threatening diseases that can be treated by a bone marrow or cord blood transplant. Cord blood can be transplanted into any patient when the cord blood unit is the best match for that patient.
Who can participate in donation?
Part of the cord blood donation process includes a review of the mother's health history. Donors must usually be 18 years old or older and in good health. Those who have or are at risk for infectious disease such as HIV/AIDS, or viral hepatitis are not eligible to donate. Mothers should speak with their health care provider when considering donation.
Options for saving umbilical cord blood.
Cord blood can be donated for public use through a public cord blood bank. In this case the costs of collection, transport, donor screening and storage of the unit is covered by the bank. There are no costs to the donor. Units placed in public cord blood bank inventories are then made available on a medical need and best tissue type match to the patients in need of such transplants.
Cord blood can also be stored in private cord blood banks and reserved for future use by the infant or close family members. All costs for collection, transport, testing and storage of cord blood units placed in private cord blood banks are paid by the donor family. These units remain available to the infant or family for potential use under limited medical circumstances. This option is available only for those families who can afford the cost which is generally not covered by any health care insurance.
On a less common basis cord blood units may be collected at the birth of one infant for the use of an identified family member known to be in need of such a transplant. This is referred to as directed or medical need cord blood banking. Costs of such collection and storage may be part of the health care costs of the currently ill family member.
Additional information about donating cord blood may be found at the following links:
- National Marrow Donor Program www.marrow.org
- American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology www.acog.org
- American Academy of Pediatrics www.aap.org
- March of Dimes www.marchofdimes.com
In the Metropolitan NYC Area
- New York Blood Center www.nationalcordbloodprogram.org
- Or contact the NYS Department of Health Wadsworth Center at (518) 402-4525