Blood from the umbilical cord and placenta is special because it has a large number of blood-forming cells. These cells might be life-saving for someone who has a disease such as leukemia, or lymphoma, or certain inherited metabolic or immune system disorders. An umbilical cord blood transplant, like a bone marrow transplant (also called a BMT), takes the place of a patient's diseased cells with healthy cells.
The umbilical cord is routinely thrown away after the baby is born—unless the parents are able to do something else. Today, expectant parents may have the blood left in the umbilical cord and placenta collected and:
- Donated to a public cord blood bank. Cord blood donated to a public cord blood bank is available to patients who need a transplant. The donation process doesn’t cost anything to the parents donating the umbilical cord blood. Today, however, only certain hospitals can collect umbilical cord blood for storage in public cord blood banks. Learn about Donating Umbilical Cord Blood to a Public Bank.
- Stored in a family (private) cord blood bank. Cord blood stored in a family cord blood bank is saved for that family. Family cord blood banks are available throughout the country for anyone who wants to pay for the collection and storage of the umbilical cord blood. If you are thinking about family banking, call a family cord blood bank as soon as possible.
- Saved for a family member who has a medical need. When a family member has a disease that may be treated with a bone marrow or cord blood transplant, parents can choose to save their baby's cord blood for directed donation. Collecting and storing cord blood for directed donation is offered at little or no cost to eligible families. To learn more about directed donation, call a participating public cord blood bank or a family cord blood bank at Parent's Guide to Cord Blood.
- Donated for research. Ask your doctor, midwife or cord blood bank for more information.
If you are an expectant parent, talk with your doctor about the choices that may be available to you. By making this decision, you can have the umbilical cord blood collected and possibly give someone another chance at life.
Policy and opinion statements
To help understand options for umbilical cord blood, read policy and opinion statements from medical organizations.