Cord Blood FAQs

National Marrow Donor Program
Copyright ? 2003 National Marrow Donor Program
Last Modified: February 23, 2003

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If you are interested, or someone you know is interested, in donating cord blood, look for a Cord Blood Bank or collecting hospital within or close to your community. There are only a small number of cord blood banks in the United States, so donation to a local bank is not possible in many areas.

If there is not an NMDP Cord Blood Bank in your community, refer to the Non-NMDP Cord Blood Bank list on this Web site or contact any major university hospital or medical center in your state to see if they accept cord blood donations.

Cord blood donation is currently not possible in many communities. Many communities do not have the technical and financial resources needed to establish and operate a public cord blood bank. Although cord blood banks are developing throughout the United States, the annual number of births far exceeds the expected need for cord blood storage.

There is no cost for donating. Unrelated donor cord blood banks will take care of the procedure and cover the cost of processing and storing your baby's cord blood unit. However, parents also have the option of storing cord blood exclusively for use within their own family for a fee. Several banks in the United States will collect and store cord blood reserved for private use. A list of these banks is available at

Donating cord blood is medically safe. Donating poses no health risks to you or your baby. Donating does not affect your baby or your birth experience because the cord blood is collected after your baby is born. If you or your baby experience any complications during delivery, your doctor will not collect the cord blood.

Donating your child's cord blood or storing it for private use is a personal decision that only you can make. If you have a child with leukemia or other disease that may be treatable by transplant and you are pregnant, talk with your oncologist or pediatrician about saving your baby's cord blood. For more information see the Non-NMDP Cord Blood Bank list.

Families may feel a great deal of pressure from the promotions and advertisements they receive from the for-profit private storage cord blood banks. The NMDP agrees with the policy statement of The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued in 1999:

AAP's second recommendation follows:

"Given the difficulty of making an accurate estimate of the need for autologous [donation from self] transplantation and the ready availability of allogeneic [donation from sibling or unrelated person] transplantation, private storage of cord blood as "biological insurance" is unwise. However, banking should be considered if there is a family member with a current or potential need to undergo a stem cell transplantation." (Words in italics added by the NMDP.)

After the baby's birth, the umbilical cord is clamped, breaking the link between the baby and the placenta. The small amount of blood remaining in the placenta and umbilical cord, typically three to five fluid ounces, is drained and taken to a cord blood bank where the unit is processed and samples are sent for tests. To be stored, the cord blood unit must meet these standards:

  • The unit must be large enough.
  • The maternal and family health history must meet eligibility guidelines.
  • Tests of the cord blood unit and the mother's blood sample must show no signs of infection or other possible problems.

If the unit meets these standards, it is frozen and stored in a liquid nitrogen freezer. The cord blood unit is then listed on the NMDP's Registry, where it will be searched for a matching recipient and then transplanted.

Once the donated cord blood is processed and stored at the Cord Blood Bank, it is listed on the NMDP Registry and available to patients all over the world who are searching for a match. The cord blood can be transplanted into any patient whose doctor selects the cord as a match for that patient. Remember that donating cord blood to a public bank is different than storing the cord blood for your family's private use. The donated cord blood is not reserved for your family. Also, some donated cord blood units cannot be stored. Some units are too small or have other factors that make them unsuitable for storage in a public bank.

Studies have shown good cord blood cell recovery after up to ten years of storage (Clin Exp Immunol 1997; 107, Suppl 1). Studies are ongoing to determine the storage life of cord blood units.

It is recommended that someone who is interested in donating contact the cord blood bank by the 34th week of pregnancy.

The tissue types that are used to match a cord blood unit with a recipient are inherited like skin and eye color. Thus, patients are most likely to find a matched cord blood unit from within their own ethnic group. There are not enough cord blood units that have been collected from people in ethnic and racial minority groups. More cord blood units are needed to provide better chances for all patients to find a matched cord blood unit.

Identifying information is never exchanged between a cord blood donor and cord blood transplant recipient. The identity of the cord blood donor is kept confidential at the cord blood bank.

The NMDP has developed a central Registry of cord blood units that physicians may search. In addition, several mechanisms exist for physicians to search cord blood banks not currently participating with The NMDP. Physicians can obtain additional information from the NMDP Office of Patient Advocacy at (888) 999-6743. Outside the United States, call (612) 627-8140.

More information about marrow, blood stem cell and umbilical cord blood donation is available on the National Marrow Donor Program Web site.