Cord blood donation and banking
- Cord blood is the blood left in the umbilical cord of newborn babies after birth, which is rich in stem cells and used for treating specific diseases and in medical research.
- Stem cells can be used to help grow and repair cells in the body.
- Cord blood may be donated and used to treat or cure diseases of the blood or immune system, such as lymphoma and leukaemia.
- Cord blood may also be collected and stored for private use. There are usually storage fees associated with private cord banking.
- If you are thinking about donating or banking cord blood, speak to your doctor or midwife during your pregnancy to find out more about what you need to do.
What makes cord blood special?
The blood left in the umbilical cord after your baby is born is rich in stem cells. These cells help the growth and repair of body tissue. In the body, they can turn into many different cell types including blood cells, bones, cartilage and other tissue. Stem cells are used in many different types of medical treatments, as well as for medical research.
Why might I consider donating or banking my baby's cord blood?
You might consider donating your baby's cord blood because it helps other people in Australia and throughout the world. Stem cells from cord blood can be used to treat people with diseases such as:
- leukaemia and lymphoma
- aplastic anaemia, thalassaemia and other blood disorders
- autoimmune deficiencies
Information about your cord blood is sent to the Australian Bone Marrow and Cord Blood Donor Registry. This can be searched internationally by transplant centres, and can help patients anywhere in the world. In some cases, the treatment is life-saving.
Who gets the cord blood I've banked?
It depends. You can make a public donation, where the cord blood is stored then used to treat someone anonymously. You'll never find out who this person is, and they won't know who you are. But you'll be helping them out, in the same way an organ donor does. This is done free of charge, and you receive no payment.
You can donate cord blood to a family member, if they have a medical condition that responds to stem cell treatment. You will need to get the treating doctor's approval for this free service.
You can also store the cord blood in a private cord blood bank, so it can be used by your family if it is ever needed. Private cord blood banking will involve fees.
You need to make arrangements for cord blood banking before the birth. Talk to your obstetrician or midwife for further information.
What do I need to do if I want to donate my cord blood?
To donate cord blood, you need to give birth in a participating collection hospital and make arrangements before you are admitted. Banking cord blood will make no difference to your plans of how you’d like to have your baby.
You will need to complete a health and travel history, and give informed consent. TThere are specially trained midwives who will meet with you to talk about what is involved. This is also a good time to ask any questions you have. Your health team will need to take a small blood sample to check for infectious diseases. There are other strict health and lifestyle criteria that you'll need to meet.
How will my cord blood be collected and stored?
After your baby is born, and after the umbilical cord is cut, a trained staff member draws blood from the cord. This won't hurt you or your baby.
A small amount of the blood is kept aside for testing for viruses and other infections. The rest of the blood is frozen and stored in a cord blood banks.
Cord blood for public use is stored by 3 public cord blood banks:
- Sydney Cord Blood Bank (Sydney) 02 9382 0371
- Queensland Cord Blood Bank (Brisbane) 07 3163 2665
- BMDI Cord Blood Bank (Melbourne) 03 8345 3385
Cord blood for private use is managed by private companies that charge fees. If you're considering using a private service, ask about all the fees involved. Further information can be found online or through your doctor.
What happens after my blood is collected?
Your cord blood will be assessed to see if it is suitable for treatment. If not, it can be used for research purposes, but only if you've given consent.
When your baby is 6 months old, you will be contacted to make sure that you, your baby and family are healthy. If all is well, then the blood can be used to help others
Where can I get more information and advice?
For more information, as your doctor or midwife, or visit:
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: August 2022