You may have seen the ads for banking your baby’s cord blood — an expensive method for saving your baby’s valuable cord blood. But what you may not know is that you can donate your baby’s cord blood, full of life-saving stem cells, for free.
Unlike private cord blood banking, in which parents pay a hefty amount to keep their baby’s blood stashed away for possible future use, cord blood donation is completely free. As an added bonus, should your child need medical treatment from cord blood, his or her blood may still be available for future use.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that families consider private cord blood banking only when there is a confirmed full sibling in the family with a medical condition that could benefit from the banked cord blood.
How does it help?
Cord blood is one of the richest sources of valuable stem cells and is unfortunately, usually thrown away after birth. Stem cells can be used to actually produce blood, which can be life-saving for patients with certain cancers and blood and immune disorders.
According to a statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics, donating your baby’s cord blood can help treat diseases such as malignancies, bone marrow failure, hemoglobinopathies, immunodeficiencies, and/or inborn errors of metabolism. Many other medical conditions can also be treated from the use of cord blood, either by directly using stem cells from the blood, or through research using the donated cord blood, or for sibling-to-sibling transfusion. Some cord blood donation centers also accept donations that can be saved for siblings at no extra charge. More information can be found through the National Marrow Donor Program.
How does it work?
If you decide to donate your baby’s cord blood, you will need to find a cord blood donation center in your area that works with the hospital or birth center where you will be delivering. Talk to your doctor or call your local hospital for recommendations. You will want to start the process by your third trimester to ensure that you complete all the necessary steps and in case of an early delivery.
With most facilities, you will complete a health questionnaire by mail or over the phone. The cord blood donation center will check that the mother is in good health with no major medical complications. Guidelines vary, but generally, the same criteria as donating blood apply. Women who have gestational diabetes are usually eligible for cord blood donation.
After an initial health screening, most facilities will send you additional paperwork, including a consent form to sign and send back, along with the actual cord blood collection kit.
Next, you will need to let your care provider know that you plan on donating your baby’s cord blood; in some cases, your doctor will need to sign the consent as well. It is important to talk with your delivery care provider about your cord blood donation plans, as he or she will be the one actually collecting the cord blood for donation.
When you get to the hospital, you will need to let the nursing staff and/or your doctor know that you are donating cord blood and provide them with the kit that was mailed to you. They should take care of the rest of the process, which might include taking a sample of your blood, collecting and packaging the cord blood, and mailing the donation out.
How is it collected?
This is the really cool part about cord blood donation — nothing is done differently. At birth, your doctor will simply draw out the blood that remains in the umbilical cord before it’s discarded. Donating your baby’s cord blood literally takes less than a minute!