Did you know that a baby’s cord blood could save a life.
Cord blood is the blood left in the placenta and umbilical cord after your baby is delivered and is rich in stem cells. Stem cells are immature cells from which blood cells and the immune system are formed.
Every three minutes, someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer. Every 10 minutes, someone dies from a blood cancer. Stem cells are used to treat people with some cancers, genetic diseases and blood disorders.
When you donate your baby’s cord blood, it is listed by Be The Match®; a national registry that connects patients in need with potential stem cell donors. According to Be The Match®, 70 percent of all patients who need a transplant don’t have a fully matched donor in their family. A patient’s likelihood of finding a matching donor on the Be The Match Registry® is estimated to range from 66-97 percent, depending on ethnic background. Studies show that when donated stem cells closely match a patient, their chances of transplant success improve. Patients are more likely to match someone of the same ethnic background. Increasing the diversity of cord blood units on the registry makes it possible for even more patients to receive a transplant. In 2015, 29 percent of umbilical cord blood transplants were for transplant patients of color.
When a patient needs a transplant, their doctor will determine the source of stem cells that best meets their needs. Cord blood is one of three sources of blood-forming cells used in transplants. The others are bone marrow and peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC).
Cord blood is especially useful when:
- There is no adult donor who is a close match for a patient. Patient outcomes are improved when the cells for transplant closely match the patient. Cord blood does not need to match as closely as bone marrow or PBSC for a successful transplant.
- A patient needs a transplant quickly. Sometimes a patient can’t wait several weeks or months for a donor to be contacted and the marrow donation to be collected. Cord blood units are stored in a public cord blood bank and ready to use.
Donation of cord blood is safe for both mother and baby; the labor and delivery will not be affected. After your baby is born and the umbilical cord clamped the blood from the cord and placenta is collected, you will be asked for a blood sample to check for infectious diseases. No blood is ever taken from your baby. There is no cost to you to donate to a public cord blood bank. Public cord blood banks cover the costs of collecting, processing and storing cord blood units.
After the cord blood reaches the blood bank it is checked to be sure it has enough stem cells for a transplant. If there are too few stem cells, the cord blood may be used for research to help future patients have a successful transplant. It is tested to be sure it’s free from infectious diseases, tissue typed and listed on Be The Match Registry®, where it will be available for patients in need of a transplant. To protect your family’s privacy, the cord blood is identified only by number and never by name. It is frozen in a liquid nitrogen freezer and stored.
If you are interested in donating your baby’s cord blood, let your doctor or midwife know between your 28th and 34th week of pregnancy. Check the list of hospitals that collect cord blood for a public cord blood bank. If your hospital is listed, contact the cord blood bank that works with your hospital to find more information about what you need to do to donate. You can donate cord blood in hospitals in all 50 states, except Alaska.
In order to donate your baby’s cord blood there are a number of criteria you need to meet. Some of these criteria are listed below.
- You must be at least 18 years old.
- Never been diagnosed with cancer or received chemotherapy or immunotherapy.
- Never been exposed to HIV, the AIDs Virus, Hepatitis B or C, West Nile or Tuberculosis.
- Be expecting only one baby.
- Never had a tissue or organ transplant.
Our donor and cord blood registries can only continue to grow if people like you donate your baby’s umbilical cord blood. Because of you, more patients will be able to receive a life-saving transplant.
More information can be found at the following websites.
Post written by Claire Keller, RN, MN, clinical instructor at MSB – Richfield