This post is quite sentimental to me. This is a topic I am very passionate about and wish for every family to consider. You could SAVE A LIFE…
I had never heard of cord blood. I had seen the ads in the magazines and here and there, but was not knowledgeable about it until my husband’s sister Becca, needed one as a transplant to battle lymphoma and potentially save her life. I wish I didn’t know as much about cord blood as I do, but after the circumstances, I want everyone to know how easy it is (and FREE!) to donate your baby’s cord blood and how it can help thousands of critically ill patients with blood diseases like leukemia and lymphoma to receive a life-saving transplant.
The whole process was amazing to me, how from this umbilical cord blood, rich in blood-forming cells, could save a person’s life and cure their blood disease. In fact, more than 25,000 patients around the world have received cord blood transplants because parents chose to donate their baby’s cord blood to public cord blood banks. What a magnificent gift to be able to give! Especially when hospitals just throw it out! I knew I wanted to be a part of something so special and donate our baby’s cord blood to someone in need. We could save a life…
So began the research. I needed to know how it all worked. All I ever heard about it was how expensive it was. But, that is only if you choose to store it yourself for potential future use to a private cord blood bank. If you choose to donate it to a public cord blood bank (and there are tons to choose from!), it is completely free, AND safe to the mother and baby. There are no collection or storage costs to the donor AT ALL. I researched through Be the Match which is a registry listing of potential bone marrow donors and donated umbilical cord blood units. Doctors can use this to search and find a match for their patients who need a transplant but don’t have a matched donor in their family. Also on this website, I found that there are more than 193,000 umbilical cord blood units on the Be The Match Registry and access to more than 601,000 total cord blood units through the international network of cord blood banks. This was incredible to me! This many families were donating their baby’s cord blood and it made me so extremely happy! 7 out of 10 people will not have a matching donor in their family. These families depend on the Be The Match Registry to find a match. This was all the reassurance I needed, I knew I had chosen to do the right thing, to help someone else in need. Again, to save a life…
Next thing I wanted to know, was how does it all work. I had read so much about how you should now let the umbilical cord pump for a while and wait to cut it to ensure your baby is receiving all of those last ultra-rich nutrients. Was I still going to be able to do this? Or were they going to need to cut it right away? I still wanted the best for my baby, and that was my number one. The answer from Be the Match when I called was so encouraging. They assured me that I would still be able to have the exact labor experience I wanted, including waiting to cut the cord, and it should not affect the outcome of getting enough cord blood to be able to donate. Again, this was perfect. I was still able to take care of my baby to the max while helping out another person and saving a life.
I hope by now you’re asking, SO HOW DO I DONATE?!
Follow these easy steps:
Between your 28th and 34th week of pregnancy
- Talk to your doctor or midwife about your decision to donate umbilical cord blood.
- Learn if you meet the cord blood donation guidelines. (Follow that link to take a short questionnaire)
- Check the list of hospitals (follow that link) that collect cord blood for a public cord blood bank. If your hospital is listed, contact the cord blood bank that works with your hospital to find more information about what you need to do to donate. Living in South Dakota, there were no public cord blood banks. I had to complete a referral form to be referred to a cord blood bank that was able to send me a blood cord collection kit (they contacted me within about 7-10 days after I submitted my referral). Keep in mind that limited donations of this kind are accepted due to the cord blood bank’s collection and processing capacity. I struck out the first time with a referral, but my second referral was to the Carolina’s Cord Blood Bank in Durham, North Carolina at the Duke University School of Medicine and they had sufficient kits to be able to accept my cord blood donation (YIPPEE!!!).
- Once you are all cleared through the cord blood bank of your choice, they will send you the kit. There is some paper work you will have to fill out and include in the kit, but basically, you just push the box aside until labor and delivery day!
- The cord blood bank may require some other things, such as making your OB take an online learning module about collecting cord blood, if they have not in the past year. Mine had to complete this and just sign a paper. It took her like 3 minutes, not bad!
While you are in the hospital
- Bring your kit with you to the hospital on the day of your delivery!
- When you arrive at the hospital, tell the labor and delivery team you are donating umbilical cord blood.
- After your baby is delivered, the umbilical cord is clamped and blood from the umbilical cord and placenta are collected into a sterile bag.
- You will be asked for a blood sample to be tested for infectious diseases. This blood is taken only from you, not your baby.
- Keep a copy of the informed consent in case you need to contact the cord blood bank at a later date. Oh, and BONUS – let’s say down the road, god forbid, you need that cord blood for a match for someone in your family, you are able to access it if it is still available. For free!
- The doctor and nurse will pack up the kit and get it all ready for delivery. You MUST get the kit to the nearest staffed FedEx location that accepts “biological materials” or “dangerous goods” within 48 hours after delivery. Locate this at www.fedex.com or by calling 1-800-GO-FEDEX.
What happens at the cord blood bank?
After the cord blood unit arrives at the cord blood bank, it is:
- Checked to be sure it has enough blood-forming cells for a transplant. If there are too few cells, the cord blood unit may be used for research related to using cord blood for transplant.
- Tested to be sure it’s free from infectious diseases.
- Tissue typed and listed on Be the Match Registry where it will be available for patients in need of a transplant. To protect your family’s privacy, the cord blood is identified only by number and never by name.
- Frozen in a liquid nitrogen freezer and stored.
- Now, Doctors can search Be The Match Registry for donated cord blood units and bone marrow donors to find a match when their patient needs a transplant.
I hope that all families consider this! It is something so easy, free, and safe, so please consider. All of the information I have on here was straight from the Be the Match website, along with a ton of other information and FAQ.
If for some reason you cannot donate your baby’s umbilical cord blood, there are other ways you can help! Follow the links to learn more
- Join the Be the Match registry as an adult bone marrow donor
- Contributing financially to help more patients get the transplant they need
- Getting involved by signing up for email updates on how you can help us change lives
- Volunteering in Be the Match efforts
Please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Be the Match if you have any questions. I only wish for every family to be knowledgeable about this and donate their baby’s cord blood!