- What is cord blood?
Cord blood is the blood that remains in the placenta and umbilical cord following the birth of your baby. Learn more
- Why do you need to collect cord blood?
Following the birth of your baby your placenta is normally thrown away along with the cord blood that is in it. Cord blood is rich in blood stem cells, similar to those found in bone marrow, and these can be used to treat many different cancers, immune deficiencies and genetic disorders.
- What are stem cells?
Stem cells are the "master cells" of the body. Blood stem cells (haematopoetic stem cells) are present in cord blood. The blood stem cells are what we call 'unspecialised', which means they have the ability to develop into parts of the blood that the patient's body requires - red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets.
- How do I register my interest in donating my cord blood?
First check that the hospital where you will be having your baby is one where you can donate
to the NHS Cord Blood Bank. Then, if you are interested in donating your cord blood, please register
by completing the on-line form. Alternatively a copy of this form is available from your midwife or by contacting us
. You can also get more information and sign up to donate at your ante natal clinics.
- What happens after I have completed the registration form?
We will send you further information on the donation process and a consent form to sign and keep with your maternity notes.
A consent form will then be sent to you to sign and must be placed in your maternity notes, so that it is available when you come into hospital for the birth of your baby.
- Why do you require my consent before the birth of my baby?
As of April 2007 a new legislation came into effect (The EU Directive for Tissue and cells), which states that consent for the use and testing of your cord blood must be obtained prior to the birth of your baby (which includes active labour).
This ensures that you have had plenty of time to ask us any questions you have relating to the collection, testing and storage of your cord blood. We call this 'informed' consent, as we encourage you to make an informed decision about donating your cord blood to the NHS Cord Blood Bank.
- How is my cord blood collected?
Once your baby has been born, your midwife will confirm that consent has been given and will pass your placenta to our staff, along with your signed consent form. Your placenta is then taken to a dedicated cord blood collection room within the delivery suite. The placenta is placed in a sterile supporting structure and the cord is cleaned with an alcohol wipe. A needle is then inserted into the cord and the blood naturally flows into a collection bag. We need to collect at least 50ml of cord blood from one donation but we can collect up to 150ml.
- Will donating cord blood affect my baby or me?
The procedures we use to collect cord blood are safe and risk-free for both you and your baby. This is because the collection of cord blood is made from the placenta AFTER the baby is born, AFTER the cord is cut and AFTER the placenta has been delivered, your donataion is handled by our staff, leaving your midwife completely free to care for you and your baby. Donating your cord blood does not interfere with the management of labour and delivery, or with the aftercare of you or your baby.
- What happens after you have collected my cord blood?
Following the successful collection of your cord blood, we will come to see you while you are still in hospital. We will ask you some routine questions and take a blood sample from you. Blood is not required from your baby, just from you. Your blood sample will be tested, in the same way as the National Blood Service test blood donors, for HIV, hepatitis, syphilis and some other blood borne infections. In addition to this, we will telephone you around 12 weeks after the birth of your baby to check that you and your baby are well.
- What tests are performed on the blood samples taken from me?
The tests performed on your blood are the same tests performed if you were to donate blood to the National Blood Service. These include tests for HIV, hepatitis, syphilis, HTLV, and some other blood borne infections. We have to do these tests to ensure that the cord blood is safe to be given to a patient. In the unlikely event that any test result is positive, one of our doctors will contact you to offer appropriate advice.
- What tests are performed on my cord blood?
The collected cord blood is routinely tested in our laboratory to ensure the unit is safe to be given to a patient. Learn more
- Is my personal information, including my test results, kept confidential?
If you donate your cord blood, your name and your baby's name, address and date of birth will all be put onto the NHS Blood and Transplant's database along with test results relating to your donation. At this point your donation is given a unique identification number so that all the information provided to the world-wide bone marrow registries and transplant centres uses this number only and your details are therefore kept confidential.
- Am I eligible to donate my cord blood?
Most people are able to donate their cord blood but as with donating blood we must make sure that the donation is as safe as possible for the patient. Therefore we ask each cord blood donor a series of lifestyle and medical questions to make sure the donation is suitable. Learn more
- Can I donate if I conceived using IVF?
Yes - unless you have used donor egg and sperm.
- Where can I donate my cord blood
You can donate your cord
blood at Barnet General (Barnet,
Hertfordshire), Northwick Park (Harrow,
Middlesex), Luton & Dunstable (Luton,
Bedfordshire), Watford General (Watford,
Hertfordshire), St George's (Tooting, London)
and University College (London). Our staff
work throughout the day and night, although
there may be some occasions when our staff are
not available and sadly at these times we will
not be able to collect your cord blood.
- Does it cost me any money?
The NHS Cord Blood Bank is a public cord blood bank and does not charge you to collect, test or to store your donation.
- Do I get paid?
No, we do not pay you for your donation.
- How long is my cord blood stored for?
We store your cord blood donation until it is given to a patient who needs a stem cell transplant. It is not yet known how long frozen cord blood may be stored for, although research has shown that stem cells remain healthy for between 10 and 20 years.
Cord blood transplants have only taken place in the UK since 1996 and as this new technology evolves, further testing may show that there is a limit to the useful lifespan of frozen cord blood. On the other hand, it is quite possible that the stem cells can be stored indefinitely. Only time will tell.
- When would my cord blood be used for research and development purposes?
If your cord blood is not suitable for transplantation, it may be used for research and development (R&D) but only if you have given consent for us to do this. If consent for R&D has not been given and we are unable to use your cord blood then it will be thrown away using standard hospital practices.
- Would my cord blood be available to my own family should it be needed in the future?
Cord blood donations to the NHS Cord Blood Bank are made available for public use and are not kept specifically for individuals or their families. Should a cord blood transplant be necessary for you or your family, the registries will be searched for the most appropriate stem cell unit with the best tissue match, regardless of its source. This could be the one you donated to us. However, if your cord blood has already been issued to another patient for transplant, it will not be available for your use.
- Can I donate if I have a caesarean (c-section)?
Yes. As long as there is no medical reason that the midwife needs to retain your placenta, we can collect your cord blood if you are having an elective or emergency caesarean.
- How does this differ to private banking of my cord blood?
If you choose to store your cord blood privately in a private cord blood bank for your own use, there would be a fee charged to you. It would mean that your cord would always be available for your own family's use.
See public v private cord blood banks
- I am expecting twins (or other multiple births), can I donate?
Unfortunately, we are not able to collect cord blood from multiple births as the volume collected from each placenta is less than from single births and is not sufficient for a transplant.
- What diseases can cord blood treat?
Cord blood transplants have been shown to cure patients with a variety of serious conditions:
Malignancies - a cancer of the blood, e.g. Leukaemia, lymphoma
Bone marrow failure - when bone marrow doesn't produce the cells it should
Haemoglobinopathies - a blood disorder e.g. Sickle cell anaemia, thalassaemia
Immunodeficiencies - when the immune system doesn't work properly
Metabolic disorders - which affect the breakdown of waste products in the body.
- Would my cord blood be made available worldwide?
Yes, once your cord blood has been processed, tested and stored it will be available for any patient in the UK or anywhere around the world. It will have its own unique identification number and will be located on national and international bone marrow and cord blood registries.
- What happens to the cord blood when its not collected by NHS Cord Blood Bank collection staff?
If your cord blood is not collected by our trained staff, and you have not made alternative arrangements for your cord to be collected privately, your placenta containing your cord blood will be thrown away, according to routine hospital practice.
- Is a cord blood collection always successful?
Unfortunately, not every cord blood collection is successful. This may be due to a low volume of cord blood or if the cord blood clots during the collection procedure. This in no way indicates that there are any problems with you or your baby.
- Why does the NHS Cord Blood Bank collect cord blood units at a limited number of hospitals?
We have deliberately targeted our resources so that we collect from hospitals with the widest ethnic mix. This, combined with hospitals that have high delivery rates give us the greatest variety of tissue types for patients. These tissue types are inherited and are different in different ethnic groups. However, it is a future goal to expand the number and scope of participating hospitals throughout the UK.
- Can my baby be cloned using my donation?
No. Your cord blood donation will not be used in reproductive cloning. The government passed the Human Reproductive Cloning Act 2001 that made any attempt to use scientific techniques to create a child by reproductive cloning illegal.