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H H S Department of Health and Human Services
Health Resources and Services Administration
Blood Cell Transplant

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Cord Blood Frequently Asked Questions

Parents who want to donate their baby’s cord blood can find answers to many of their questions on this page.

  • Questions about the number of people in need of a transplant and the need for more cord blood units are answered at General FAQs.
  • If the answers to your questions are not here or elsewhere on this website, please send your question to feedback@hrsa.gov.

Deciding what to do with your baby’s cord blood

Donating umbilical cord blood

Supporting cord blood donation and transplantation

Deciding what to do with your baby’s cord blood

Should we store our baby's cord blood in a private family bank or donate it for public use?

Donating cord blood for public use or storing it for your family's private use is a personal decision. The umbilical cord and placenta are routinely discarded after the baby is born—unless the parents choose to have the blood remaining in the umbilical cord and placenta collected. Options may include:

  • Donating it to a public cord blood bank. (If the cord blood cannot be used for transplantation, it may be used for research studies or it will be discarded.)
  • Storing it in a family (private) cord blood bank
  • Saving it for a biological sibling who has a diagnosed medical need

For more information to help you make an informed decision, see Options for Umbilical Cord Blood Banking and Donation.

Is donated umbilical cord blood always stored?

The registry of the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program (also called the Be The Match Registry®) is committed to building an inventory of high-quality cord blood units that are from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. When a donated cord blood unit meets the standards for transplant, it will be tissue typed, frozen and stored in a liquid nitrogen freezer at a public cord blood bank. The cord blood unit is then listed on the registry, where it is available for searching patients.

Some transplant standards for donated cord blood are:

  • The cord blood unit must be large enough (contain enough blood-forming cells) for a transplant.
  • The mother's health history and the results of her blood sample test must meet eligibility guidelines.
  • The cord blood unit must be free from contamination.
  • The cord blood unit must arrive at the cord blood bank within the defined time limit for processing.

Not all cord blood units collected are suitable for transplant. Frequently, cord blood is not stored because there are not enough blood-forming cells or the processing time is over the time limit. Collected cord blood not suitable for transplant may be used for research or discarded.

Donating umbilical cord blood

If you decide to donate your baby's umbilical cord blood, a representative from the public cord blood bank who works with your hospital will ask you questions to make sure you are eligible to donate. The information you give is used to ensure your blood is free from infectious diseases that can be transferred to another person. You can usually donate if you are:

  • Healthy
  • Expecting one baby (rather than two or more)

For basic donation guidelines, see Learn if You Can Donate Cord Blood. exit disclaimer

To donate cord blood to a public cord blood bank, talk with your doctor or midwife about your decision to donate and then contact a cord blood bank to see if donation is an option at your delivery hospital. Ideally you should contact the cord blood bank between your 28th and 34th week of pregnancy.

After the birth of your baby, the umbilical cord and placenta are no longer needed. If you choose to donate, the blood remaining in the umbilical cord and placenta will be collected and tested. Cord blood that meets testing criteria will be stored and available to searching patients. (It is not saved for your family.)

For detailed information, see Donating Umbilical Cord Blood to a Public Bank.

Where can I donate cord blood?

Check to see if your hospital works with a public cord blood bank to collect umbilical cord blood for public donation. Because of funding limitations, it is not possible to donate cord blood at every hospital at this time.

For a list of hospitals that work with public cord blood banks, see Participating Hospitals. exit disclaimer

Will donating my baby's umbilical cord blood change my labor or delivery experience?

Donating cord blood will not change your labor or delivery in any way. During delivery, all the focus is on you and your baby. No blood is taken from your baby, only from the cord and placenta after the baby is born.

Usually the day after your baby is born, you will be asked for a sample of your blood to be tested for infectious diseases. This blood is taken from you only, not your baby.

How is my privacy and that of my baby protected after I have donated to a public cord blood bank?

The cord blood bank keeps the mother's and baby's names confidential, and it protects the privacy of the family. Names are not shared with any patient or transplant center. The cord blood is identified by a number, never by a name. Identifying information is never exchanged between a cord blood donor and a cord blood transplant recipient.

Does it cost me anything to donate cord blood?

There is no charge to you when you donate cord blood to a public cord blood bank. Public cord blood banks cover the costs of collecting, processing, and storing cord blood units. At this time, because of funding limitations, it is not possible to donate at every hospital.

Parents may also choose to store the umbilical cord blood for their own family. Family (private) cord blood banks are available throughout the country for anyone who chooses to pay the collection fee and annual fees for storing the cord blood.

If a biological sibling has a medical need, the collection and storage of cord blood is offered at little or no cost through directed donation.

For more information, see:

Supporting cord blood donation and transplantation

Do hospitals and obstetricians offer expectant parents information about donating umbilical cord blood?

Public cord blood banks work closely with their participating hospitals and obstetricians to provide information about donating umbilical cord blood with expectant parents.
You can also:

How does the U.S. government support cord blood transplantation?

Recognizing the need to help more patients who need a bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant, the United States Congress passed the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005, Public Law 109-129 (Stem Cell Act of 2005) and the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Reauthorization Act of 2010, Public Law 111-264 (Stem Cell Act of 2010). These acts include support for umbilical cord blood transplantation and research.

To learn more about the Stem Cell Acts of 2005 and 2010, see: The Need for More Cord Blood Donations; National Cord Blood Inventory Contract Summary; Cord Blood Coordinating Center Contract Summary.