Cord blood banking: Considerations for public donations
With a little bit of planning, Be the Match (formerly known as National Marrow Donor Program) says you can save someone's life by donating your baby's umbilical cord blood. Here are steps they recommend following if you're considering donating:
Before your 34th week of pregnancy:
- Talk with your doctor or midwife about your decision to donate.
- Determine if your hospital collects donations of cord blood and if they charge a fee (most shouldn't).
- If your hospital collects donations, contact the public cord blood bank that works with your hospital. The cord blood bank will confirm if you are eligible to donate and give you a consent form and health questionnaire to complete. If there isn't a cord blood bank that works in your area, contact Cryobanks International Inc., a public and private bank, that accepts donations on a limited basis for transplants. (Editor's note: You can also contact LifebankUSA, a private bank that accepts public donations mainly for research, not transplants, on a limited basis. They do not participate in the Be the Match.)
While you are in the hospital:
- When you arrive, tell the labor and delivery team you are donating umbilical cord blood.
- After your baby is delivered, the umbilical cord is clamped and blood from the umbilical cord and placenta is collected into a sterile bag, given an identification number and stored temporarily. This collected blood is called a cord blood unit.
- A sample of your blood (not your baby's) is tested for infectious diseases.
- Within one or two days after your baby's birth, the cord blood unit is delivered to the public cord blood bank.
After the cord blood arrives at the bank:
- Checked to be sure it's large enough (has enough blood-forming cells) to be used for a transplant. If there are too few cells, the cord blood may be used for research to improve transplants for future patients, or it may be discarded.
- Tested to be sure it is free from contamination.
- Tissue typed and listed on the Be The Match Registry. To protect your family's privacy, the cord blood is identified by a number, never by name.
- Frozen in a liquid nitrogen freezer and stored.
Once stored, cord blood is available for transplant if a patient needs it. Doctors search among the donated cord blood units and the bone marrow donors on the Be The Match Registry to find a match when their patient needs a transplant.