You may have heard that you can donate your baby’s cord blood to a public bank, where it can be available to anyone who needs it. This is true — with some restrictions. If you are planning on donating your child’s cord blood to a public bank, here’s what you need to know about the options available and the implications of different choices. Cord blood is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta after birth. It is full of red blood cells, white blood cells, and stem cells. Stem cells are immature cells that can grow into new types of body tissue. Cord blood banks store umbilical cord blood for future use. If your child or another family member later needs a stem cell transplant, the stored cord blood can help by providing those healthy cells.
What is a public cord blood bank?
Public cord blood banks are nonprofits that collect donations for people in need. If your child’s cord blood is in a public bank, it is available to anyone who needs it, and you do not have to pay to store or transport it. Public cord blood banks screen donors and their families for infectious diseases, genetic disorders, and other problems before collecting and banking the cord blood. They also test the cord blood and screen it for infectious diseases and genetic disorders, but they do not screen it as thoroughly as they screen the blood collected for their own patients.
Why donate cord blood to a public bank?
The main reason to donate your baby’s cord blood to a public bank is to increase the chance that it will be useful for someone who needs a stem cell transplant. There are about 10,000 transplants every year using cord blood that was donated to a public bank. When you donate your baby’s cord blood to a public bank, it could be used by anyone in need of a stem cell transplant, including your baby’s siblings, other relatives, and future children. If your baby’s cord blood is ever needed, it’s in a place where it is ready to go.
When you can donate to a public bank
You can donate your baby’s cord blood to a public bank as long as it is not contaminated with bacteria or viruses. If you are not sure how clean your cord blood is, you can ask your doctor to test it. The testing process takes about two weeks and is free. If your doctor determines your baby’s cord blood is free of contamination, you can donate it to a public bank before your baby is even born if you want. You can also donate it after the birth, or you can store it at home for your family’s future use.
How can you donate your baby’s cord blood?
If you are planning to donate your baby’s cord blood to a public bank, you may be able to do so before the birth. Many hospitals have public cord blood banks on site. Talk to your doctor or the hospital where you will give birth to see if your facility offers this service. If you plan to donate your baby’s blood after birth, you can contact a public cord blood bank and schedule a time for your health care provider to collect it. The doctor will draw the blood from the umbilical cord after your baby is born. You should have the blood collected and donated within six hours of your baby’s birth. The blood is ready to be collected as soon as the umbilical cord is clamped, so you don’t have to wait for it to stop pulsing. If your hospital does not have a public cord blood bank and you plan to donate, you can contact one of the public banks in your area with information about your doctor and hospital to make the collection process easier.
Limitations on donating to a public bank
There are a few limitations to be aware of if you want to donate your baby’s cord blood to a public bank. First, some public banks have a limited amount of space and cannot accept every donation. They have to prioritize donations from families who are most likely to have a baby who will one day need a stem cell transplant. If you think a relative of your child might need a stem cell transplant in the future, you might want to donate the cord blood to a public bank, even if you plan to store it at home. You may also have an ethical obligation to donate the cord blood. If your family is ethnically or genetically diverse, your baby’s cord blood could be a match for someone in need of a transplant.
Why might you not want to donate your child’s cord blood to a public bank?
There is no downside to donating your baby’s cord blood to a public bank if you plan to do so. But if you are not comfortable donating it to a public bank, that’s okay, too. Some people prefer to store their baby’s cord blood at home where it is ready if they or a family member ever needs it. You may be more likely to do this if you have a family member who might need a stem cell transplant in the future, since cord blood banks cannot guarantee that their blood will be useful for every person who needs it. There is nothing wrong with storing your baby’s blood for your family’s future use, but you might want to be aware that it may be more difficult to find a match for your baby if he or she ever needs a stem cell transplant.
Even if you plan to donate your baby’s cord blood to a public bank, you might want to consider storing a sample at home for your family’s future use. This way, you know that your baby’s blood is available if needed. If you are planning to donate your baby’s cord blood to a public bank, make sure you do so as soon as possible after the birth to make sure it passes screening. For your reference, here are the ranked top cord blood banks for mothers in the country.