Frequently Asked Questions about Cord Blood:

Cord Blood FAQ

Why didn’t my doctor talk to me about cord blood options?

Crowded waiting rooms and busy physicians are all too common in today’s medical world. In this environment, cord blood information is seldom a priority for physicians. Many may not be well-versed in the benefits of cord blood preservation and research. You may not receive any information from your physician regarding cord blood preservation, or only an informational brochure. It is up to you to educate yourself about cord blood, and be proactive with your physician should you have any questions or concerns.

Does the procedure hurt the mother or child?

No. The cord blood is collected after the baby is delivered and the umbilical cord is cut. It is painless for both mother and child.

Does cord blood collection interfere with the birth?

No. Cord blood is collected from the afterbirth (the placenta and the remains of the already cut umbilical cord). The process occurs after your child is born and only takes a few minutes.

What is the difference between private cord blood banking and public cord blood banking/donation?

Private cord blood banking requires a fee so that your baby’s cord blood is stored for his/her own future use or use for a family member should it be needed in the future. Public cord blood banking, or donation, means that your baby’s cord blood is collected at birth and either stored in a public cord blood bank making it available to anyone in need of a transplant, or it may be used for research.

Are cord blood stem cells different than other types of stem cells?

Yes. Cord blood stem cells are unique in a number of ways. Because these stem cells are the “youngest” form of stem cells, they more easily adapt, which means that the donor and recipient do not have to be a perfect match. This sets cord blood apart from bone marrow stem cells, the most commonly used source of stem cells. Bone marrow stem cells are also not readily available, and collection is very painful. Unlike embryonic stem cells, which have faced significant ethical criticism, cord blood stem cells are not a source of ethical debate. These stem cells are already in the umbilicus and placenta and unless donated or privately banked, are unnecessarily discarded as medical waste.

How are stem cells used to treat diseases?

Most commonly, to date, stem cells are primarily used in transplant medicine to regenerate a patient’s blood and immune system. After being transplanted, the stem cells move to the patient’s bone marrow where they multiply and regenerate the cells. This helps to create a new blood and immune system for the patient. Cord blood stem cells are currently being used to treat over 80 diseases.

How long does the cord blood remain viable?

Since cord blood has only been used since 1988, it is not known how long cord blood remains viable. However, even the earliest preserved cord blood does not show signs of deterioration.

Why don’t more people donate cord blood?

Unfortunately, cord blood donation is not a standard of care in all parts of the country, and because of this, many women are unaware of their right to preserve or donate their child’s cord blood. Of the four million births in the United States each year, 97% of women do not donate or bank their child’s cord blood and it is discarded as medical waste. Save the Cord Foundation is dedicated to providing unbiased, factual information regarding cord blood and the need to preserve it.

Are there any disadvantages to cord blood?

The volume collected from cord blood is relatively small. Privately banked cord blood cannot always be used by your child or family, because sometimes the disease requiring treatment is caused by the same genetic mutation present in the harvested stem cells. There is also a small chance that donated cord blood could be infected and unusable. Parents are asked about their genetic and medical background and donated cord blood is screened for a number of diseases before being stored.

Public Banking & Donation FAQ

If I choose to donate my child’s cord blood, what will happen to it?

After the birth of the child, the blood remaining in the placenta and umbilical cord is drained and taken to a designated cord blood bank. Samples of the cord blood will be sent for testing and processing. In order for the cord blood to be stored for transplant, it must meet a set of criteria. The cord blood unit and a sample of the mother’s blood must show no signs of infection or other possible problems. The mother and family’s health history must meet the eligibility guidelines. The cord blood unit/donation must be large enough, approximately three to five ounces. Once the unit/donation meets the criteria, it will be frozen and stored in a liquid-nitrogen freezer. It will be registered with the National Marrow Donor Program for patients searching for a matching recipient.

Who will use my child’s donated cord blood?

Donated cord blood can be used to help a needy patient or used for research. If you donate the cord blood, you relinquish all future rights to that donation. Once the cord blood meets the criteria, it is entered into the National Marrow Donor Program, making it available to any patient in need of a transplant. The doctor selects the cord blood unit, making it available for transplant. Remember, the donated cord blood is not reserved for the family’s private use. If the volume of the cord blood donation is not large enough or does not meet the eligibility guidelines, it may go to research.

Where can I donate my child’s cord blood?

You will have to do a little research. There are only a few public cord blood banks in the United States. Search for a cord blood bank or a collecting hospital in your area. If there is not a National Marrow Donor Program participant in your community, contact any major university hospital or medical center in your state to see who will accept cord blood donations. Today, the financial and technological resources needed to enhance or develop cord blood banks has yet to come together.

Will it cost me to donate cord blood?

There is no cost for donating. The cost of processing, testing, and storing the cord blood is covered by the cord blood bank. There is an option to bank your child’s cord blood privately. Private banking permits you to have exclusivity of your child’s cord blood. There is an annual cost for private banking.

What are the risks of donating cord blood?

The donation of the cord blood does not harm the baby or mother. It is considered a safe medical procedure. The cord blood is collected after the birth of the baby; therefore, it will not interrupt the birthing experience. There is a very small window of time available for collection of the cord blood. Make sure the medical staff knows you will be donating the cord blood so they will be prepared.

When do I notify my doctor and the cord blood bank about our donation of the cord blood?

Before the 34th week of pregnancy you should contact the cord blood bank. You should inform your doctor once you have made a decision.

Is there a need for specific racial and ethnic cord blood donations?

Yes, now more than ever! The best opportunity for a successful match is typically from someone of the same ethnic background. The tissue traits used to match a cord blood unit with a patient are inherited. Some patients are unable to find a match because of rare or unique tissue traits. In a certain racial or ethnic group, there is a greater likelihood of matching tissue types. This is why it is so important to have a diverse pool of cord blood donations. Help increase the volume of donations to the National Marrow Donor Program so everyone can have a better potential for a match.

Is cord blood donation confidential?

The identity of the cord blood donor is kept confidential at the cord blood bank and information is never exchanged.

Private Banking FAQ

How much does it cost?

The costs for private banking involve a one-time collection fee and ongoing annual storage fees. Collection fees generally run from $1,200 to $1,500 and storage fees run from $150 to $300 per year. Many banks offer incentives or specials. Also, some physicians may impose an additional fee for the collection process.

How do I make sure the collected cord blood can be used by the family, and not just the child whose cord it was collected from?

This is a very important factor that the cord blood bank must clarify for you. The FDA has specific guidelines for testing that must be performed before storage that will allow the cord blood to be used not only for the baby, but also for other members of the baby’s family. If your sample is banked “autologously” it can only be used by the child it was collected from.

Are there private banks that offer free banking for families with specific needs?

Yes. Some banks offer free or subsidized collection and storage for families with a history of disease that can be treated with cord blood transplants. Cases of medical need are defined as 1) sibling that currently needs a transplant; 2) sibling that may need a future transplant, and; 3) other family member that may need a future transplant.

What factors should I consider when choosing a private bank?

Length of time in business and reputation:
All operating information concerning the business should be available in the information/enrollment packet or online at the business’s website. Check the Better Business Bureau online for any reported problems or complaints from customers. Any reputable facility will want to share its business record and customer approval information with you; this includes a guided tour of their facility if location and time permit.

Financial stability:
Make sure the company you select to bank your precious cord blood is financially stable. You don’t want to find out that the company you’ve picked may someday go out of business. All financial and annual reports should be made available to you. Check to see that the business is frequently audited and has shown a positive, consistent record of financial stability.

Licensing and accreditation:
All reputable facilities should be accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB). This means that the bank has had its laboratory and administrative procedures reviewed, inspected and validated and were found to be in compliance with the guidelines for the specialized processing of stem cells set by the AABB. If the facility only has general accreditation, it should be considered unacceptable.

Collection, processing and storage methods:
Ask for the specific information on the collection procedure for the cord blood at the time of delivery. There are two ways cord blood is collected, “blood bag gravity” and “syringe collection”. Blood bag collection may be easier for the physician/delivery staff to handle, but it may have some drawbacks and prevent or limit a full collection. Occasionally a plug or piece of tissue from the syringe may cause a blockage, preventing a full collection. The “syringe collection” is thought to be more reliable and usually provides an increased volume of cord blood for collection. Some facilities provide both options of collection. The company you select to bank your baby’s cord blood should have on file all data showing their successful collection and storage rates. Also ask for the number of transplants that have taken place with the stem cell samples they have collected. With only one opportunity to collect this precious resource, you must insist on a reliable company with an excellent track record.

On-site processing or outsourced processing:
The fewer hands and locations your cord blood sample has to go through to be tested, processed and stored, the less likely there will be mistakes, confusion and accidents.

Collection kit instructions:
All instructions should be easy to read. Many companies accompany their collection kit with an educational video demonstrating the collection procedure. Also check to see that a 24/7 cord blood educator or support staff is available in the event there are any questions or procedural issues that need to be answered or addressed.

Staff availability:
The company you select should have a support staff or cord blood educator available 24/7 in the event you have additional questions before, during or after the delivery of your baby.

Collection return:
It’s mandatory that the company you select has an efficient, reliable courier or delivery service that provides timely return of your cord blood sample for testing, processing and storage.

Payment plans:
Many private banks offer flexible payment plans and financial options that could make privately banking your baby’s cord affordable for you. Request that a completely printed explanation be sent to you of all expected charges for your cord blood banking.

Cord Blood FAQ

Learn about your cord blood banking options (public and family banking).


About Save the Cord Foundation

Save the Cord Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit organization, was established to promote awareness of the life-saving benefits of cord blood based on unbiased and factual information. The Foundation educates parents, health professionals and the general public about the need to preserve this valuable medical resource while providing information on both public cord blood donation programs and family cord blood banks worldwide.

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