The miracle of birth can also save a life. Did you know that moms and newborns can help critically ill people by donating cord blood?
What is cord blood?
Blood in the umbilical cord consists of stem cells that can be used to treat life-threatening illnesses such as leukemia and other forms of cancer, sickle cell disease, and more. Unfortunately, most cord blood is discarded immediately after birth.
Who needs cord blood?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, every year almost 15,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses where a bone marrow transplant or cord blood transplant from a matched donor is their best treatment option.
Tissue type is inherited and a matching donor is essential to successful treatment. Only 30 percent of patients will have a relative who is a match and able to donate. The need for minority race donors is great, with a particular need for multi-racial donors.
How is cord blood donated?
The process of donating cord blood hasn’t been easy. Private cord-blood banks charge hefty fees to store cord blood to be used only by the donor’s family. There are also 19 public banks that are open for anyone who is a close match, but there are only approximately 175 affiliated hospitals that have a system in place to collect and transfer the cord blood.
Cord blood donation requires advance preparation, and the obstetrician must act immediately after the umbilical cord is clamped and cut. Blood is drawn after the cord is detached, so there is no discomfort for mother or baby.
The blood is checked to make sure it has enough blood-forming cells for transplant and is free from contamination. If it is, it will be frozen and stored until a matching recipient is found. If not, it may also be used for research.
Be the Match
Be the Match is the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) that provides an opportunity for everyone to get involved in saving the lives of people with leukemia, lymphoma, and other life-threatening diseases. Be the Match is the world’s largest and most diverse listing of potential marrow donors and donated cord blood units.
View the video from Be The Match: Babies Are Amazing
Time reports on a new federal program, Public Kit Donation, that will allow cord blood to be mailed in from anywhere in the U.S. The program offers a kit for expectant mothers who request one, and also teaches doctors how to use it. There is no charge to donate and the cost of collection, processing, and storage is being shared by the government and the cord banks. When a match is made, fees are paid by the recipient or their health insurer.
Those who are interested in donating cord blood to a participating public bank may contact the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank Public Kit Collection Program by calling 919-668-2071 (daytime only). To reach the Texas Cord Blood Bank coordinator, dial 800-292-5534; option 7.
Participants must inform their physician or midwife of their intention to donate through the kit program, and the physician or midwife must successfully complete an online training and certification in cord blood collection.
Participating moms will be sent a kit prior to their due date and will take the kit to the hospital upon admission for delivery. The doctor or midwife will collect the cord blood after the baby is born. The cord blood must be packed and shipped back to one of the three participating sites and must be received within 40 hours of the infant’s delivery.
Further information on Cord Blood Donation
- Be the Match
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Bone Marrow and Cord Blood Donation and Transplantation
Related reading on Care2
- In Cord Blood: Is it Wise to Bank your Baby’s Cord Blood?
- Honoring Organ Donor Families: Find Out How You Can Donate Life
Image used courtesy photoxpress.com