Cord blood is the blood present in the umbilical cord and placenta before, during, and after birth of an infant. Cord blood, just like bone marrow, contains an abundant amount of stem cells which can be used to treat many types of diseases.
Cord blood banking is the storage and preservation of cord blood at a facility for future use. There are two types of cord blood facilities: private and public cord blood banks. Private banks are facilities which store and preserve your baby's cord blood for a fee, usually costing between $1500-$2400 initially and between $100-$150 annually for storage. Public banks, on the other hand, are facilities which you can donate your baby's cord blood free of charge.
The donated cord blood is then available for use by anyone in need of a stem cell transplant. If choosing to store or donate your baby's cord blood, notify the cord blood bank of your choice (private or public) as soon as possible, ideally before the 34th week of your pregnancy.
The cord blood collection procedure is both safe and painless for you and your baby. The blood is collected immediately after the birth of your baby and before the delivery of the placenta. Once your baby is delivered, the umbilical cord is clamped and cut and the blood is collected from the umbilical vein. The procedure only takes a few minutes. The cord blood must be collected within 15 minutes after your baby is born. The blood can be collected using either a syringe to remove the blood (syringe method) from the vein or by allowing the blood to drain by gravity into a collection bag (bag method).
Once the blood is collected, a medical courier takes the specimen to your desired facility’s laboratory to process, test and freeze (cryopreserve) the blood. Your baby's cord blood will be analyzed to ensure a large enough sample of stem cells have been obtained and tested for the presence of any infectious disease. Testing will also include HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigens) typing which is used to find a donor and recipient match when the cord blood is needed. When the cord blood is needed, the facility thaws and prepares the cord blood for transplantation.
Cord blood was once thought of as medical waste, but with the advances in technology, it can now be used to save lives. Learn more about cord blood, stem cells, and cord blood banking in our Cord Blood 411 found in our Information Station.
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Author : Diba Tillery RN, BSN, IBCLC, CPST