cord blood awareness month faqs

What Is Cord Blood?

It is the blood left in the umbilical cord and placenta after a baby is born.

Although it contains all the elements found in whole blood, including red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma and platelets, it is mainly collected because it is rich in hematopoietic stem cells.

Hematopoietic stem cells are cells isolated from the blood or bone marrow. These special cells can renew themselves, differentiate into a variety of specialized cells, mobilize out of the bone marrow into circulating blood, and undergo programmed cell death, called apoptosis — a process by which cells that are not needed or detrimental self-destruct.

These special cells can be used to treat a wide variety of potentially fatal diseases, and can help children by replacing damaged blood cells with healthy ones that can strengthen their immune systems.

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Why Is It Important?

These cells are a critical treatment option for patients with leukemia or lymphoma and can be used to support research.

Clinical trials are underway in regenerative medicine, juvenile diabetes, and cerebral palsy. Other research that is showing promise includes treating:

  • Brain injury
  • Hearing loss
  • Heart disease
  • Corneal regeneration
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Lupus
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Spinal injury
  • Stroke
  • Liver disease

Once discarded as medical waste, cord blood now can be saved to benefit your family, community members, or society as a whole — which is important, especially in light of the fact that 1 in 3 Americans could benefit from regenerative medicine.

Will Collecting Blood Hurt My Baby or Me?

No. There is no pain or risk to the mother or baby because the blood is collected after the baby has born and after the cord has been cut. When blood is collected, there will be no change in the way mother and baby are cared for during labor and delivery or afterward.

What Is the Difference Between Donating It and Storing It for My Family?

Donations not have a fee and can be made in two ways:

  • A donation to research, which allows the cord blood to be used to benefit mankind.
  • A public donation, which stores the cord blood in a public bank until someone with matching cells needs to use it.

If you choose to store your baby’s cord blood privately, there is a fee for processing the sample, as well as an ongoing fee for storage — and only your family can use it.

Whether you’re donating or storing it, the collection of the sample does not harm the mother or child and in no way disrupts a family’s birth plan.

How is It Used?

Today, there are more than 80 diseases being treated with cord blood stem cells, including:

  • Malignancies — such as leukemia and lymphoma.
  • Immune deficiency disorders.
  • Blood disorders — such as sickle cell anemia and aplastic anemia.
  • Metabolic disorders.
  • Other diseases — such as osteoporosis and Evan syndrome.

Because stem cell therapies are used to treat so many diseases, nearly half of all pediatric transplants now involve cord blood.

The growing availability and proven results of this procedure are enabling thousands of people — from young babies to older adults — to benefit greatly from the healing cells provided in cord blood.

To learn more about the Dan Berger Cord Blood Program at UPMC Magee-Womens, visit our website.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About UPMC Magee-Womens

Built upon our flagship, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, and its century-plus history of providing high-quality medical care for people at all stages of life, UPMC Magee-Womens is nationally renowned for its outstanding care for women and their families.

Our Magee-Womens network – from women’s imaging centers and specialty care to outpatient and hospital-based services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania, so the help you need is always close to home. More than 25,000 babies are born at our network hospitals each year, with 10,000 of those babies born at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh, home to one of the largest NICUs in the country. The Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee in Pittsburgh as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health; U.S. News & World Report ranks Magee nationally in gynecology. The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the first and is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology, with locations in Pittsburgh and Erie.