Cord blood is blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta after a baby is born and the cord is clamped and cut.

Cord blood contains stem cells that can help treat over 80 different health conditions, including leukemia and blood disorders and other conditions. Stem cells from cord blood can grow into blood and immune system cells. Cord blood would normally be discarded along with the placenta, but you can choose to donate or bank it for future use.

What are the options?

Talk with your doctor about your interest in cord blood donation or banking well before your due date. Most programs require enrollment by the 34th week of pregnancy. Include your wishes in your birth plan.

Donating or storing cord blood is an option in most pregnancies. If you’re having twins or deliver a premature baby, it may not be an option for you.

The process of collecting cord blood is similar to other blood donations. You will answer a few questions about your health history to screen that the blood is safe for use.

During delivery, after the umbilical cord is clamped and cut, a needle is placed into one of the vessels of the umbilical cord and the blood flows into a sterile collection bag. This process does not cause any pain to you or your baby. The blood is then frozen and stored.

Donating to a public cord blood bank makes it available for anyone to use or for research. There is no cost for donating the blood. The National Marrow Donor Program’s Be the Match helps screen and match cord blood for anyone who needs it. Most cord blood banks participate with this program.

You can also choose to store your baby’s cord blood in a private cord blood bank for personal use only. There is a cost for storing the cord blood.

Learn more about planning for your new baby’s arrival.