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Cord Blood Donation

+ Public Cord Blood Banking Works for Everyone

+ Public Donation vs. Private Storage
+ Prospective Donor FAQ
+ Sample - Mother's Consent Form

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Prospective Donor FAQ

I'd like to donate my newborn's cord blood to the National Cord Blood Program. How do I get started?
You can donate to our Program if you deliver your baby in one of the NCBP's participating hospitals (collection sites). In the New York metropolitan area, these are New York-Presbyterian Hospital's Cornell Weill Medical Center; Brooklyn Hospital Center; Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University Weiler Hospital; Mount Sinai Medical Center; North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset and Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Medical Center in New Hyde Park (both part of the Long Island Jewish Health Systems). Outside of New York, participating hospitals are Inova-Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Virginia and MacDonald Hospital for Women, part of the University Hospitals of Cleveland, Ohio. A brochure that briefly explains the Program may be obtained through the hospital or your physician if you plan to deliver your baby at one of these participating hospitals.

Donating is simple. You do not need to notify the NCBP or do anything in advance! At our participating collection sites, NCBP staff will talk briefly to the mother before delivery, to obtain assent to collect the cord blood. They will attempt to collect cord blood from most births. Exceptions, at present, occur when the mother and/or baby is/are not eligible for collection, when the baby is delivered on a Friday or Saturday, or when the family has already contracted for storage with a private cord blood bank.

What happens to the cord blood when it is not collected by NCBP staff?
The "afterbirth" (the placenta and umbilical cord), along with the cord blood they contain are routinely discarded after delivery. The birthing hospital takes care of this.

Is cord blood collected from all births at the eight collaborating hospitals?
Currently, cord blood is collected 24 hours a day, five days a week, from Sunday morning through Friday morning. Unfortunately, we do not have sufficient funds at the present time to collect cord blood all seven days a week.

Is a cord blood collection always successful?
No. It is often not possible to collect enough cord blood to provide sufficient cells for a transplant. We only succeed in collecting a unit that meets current standards about 40% of the time.

What happens after the collection?
If an adequate cord blood unit is collected, one of our nurses will visit the mother, explain the Program fully and ask whether she would consent to donate the cord blood to NCBP's public cord blood bank for use by any patient that might need it. Donation is strictly voluntary.

If the mother chooses to donate, she will be asked to sign a written Informed Consent Form affirming her agreement to participate [See Cord Blood Collections].

Should the mother choose not to donate for possible transplantation, the cord blood can either be given anonymously for research purposes only or it can be discarded, according to the mother wishes.

Are there any risks involved in collecting cord blood?
NCBP procedures to collect cord blood are safe and have no associated medical risks for the mother and baby because the collection is made from the delivered placenta AFTER the baby is born, AFTER the cord is cut and AFTER the placenta has been delivered. Thus, collection does not interfere with the Obstetrician's management of labor and delivery, nor with the care of the mother and baby. There are no risks to mother or baby.

Does it cost anything to donate?
There are no costs to the donor. The NCBP covers all the costs of collection and all testing.

What if I want to store the cord blood privately for my own family?
Unfortunately, you cannot donate cord blood to the NCBP public bank and also store privately. There are simply not enough cells in a cord blood collection to do both. Private storage must be arranged during pregnancy with a company chosen to provide this service so that the Obstetrician can use the company's equipment and follow their procedures.

Rarely, parents have requested the transfer of a unit we collected to private storage. Some private companies will only take units that were collected with their own equipment and that they have processed themselves.

What tests are performed on donated cord blood and what happens to the results?
As a public cord blood bank, we are required by law to test cord blood donated for transplantation and the mother for certain infectious diseases, among them: human immunodeficiency virus (HIV, the cause of AIDS), hepatitis B and C viruses (HBV and HCV), human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV), syphilis, West Nile Virus (WNV) and Chagas disease (a disease common in South America). This testing is the same as is required for blood donated for transfusion. We also test the baby's blood for Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and for hemoglobin abnormalities such as sickle cell disease. And, samples will be stored to allow for testing anytime in the future in case further tests become necessary.

At the time of the donation, the mother provides the names and addresses of her Obstetrician/Gynecologist and the baby's Pediatrician. The results of routine tests are sent to the physicians within 3-4 weeks.

Is the information confidential?
All information collected from the mother in connection with donation and all test results are kept confidential, in a locked file room and in a secure computer database.

What if a family donates cord blood and the baby or some other family member needs a transplant at some time in the future?
All eligible cord blood units donated to the NCBP will be made accessible to any patient who might need them. Availability for the infant or another family member, therefore, cannot be guaranteed. To date, more than 3,900 cord blood units donated to the NCBP have been sent for transplants: roughly, 1-1.5% of the units collected since the year 2000 are used per year for the first 5-6 years and fewer thereafter. A few frozen units (less than 1%) have been used for research purposes or to validate and monitor the quality of our operations. About 90% of the units remain in our inventory after 10 years. These percentages are expected to change, as donation of cord blood becomes more frequent and as cord blood becomes more common as a transplant source.

If the cord blood has not yet been used for a patient or for research purposes, it is available and if it is needed by and appropriate for the child who donated it or another family member, they can have it. When a transplant is contemplated, however, the patient's physician will form an opinion and counsel whether the child's own cord blood is the best option [see Public Donation vs. Private Storage]. The child's own cord blood could not be used for a genetic disease, for example [See Anthony Dones story]. Many transplant physicians also would not use a child's own cord blood in a transplant for leukemia.

If the donating family someday requires a stem cell transplant and the donated unit is no longer available, the NCBP will provide the next best available match from its current inventory.

Ramona Shih and her baby

Ramona Shih donated her baby's cord blood to the NCBP in September 2002. "It's an incredibly simple act that could have such profound consequences; it's like giving life twice."