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Umbilical Cord Blood Donation

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Saint Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor is one of three participating hospitals in Michigan that has partnered with Karmanos Cancer Institute’s J.P. McCarthy Cord Stem Cell Bank to collect umbilical cord blood in anticipation of providing life-saving hope to people who have been diagnosed with cancer and serious blood disorders.

The J.P. McCarthy Cord Stem Cell Bank at the Karmanos Cancer Institute is a public, non-profit stem cell bank with over 1,200 umbilical cord blood units in its inventory, and is the only bank of its kind in Michigan. The bank was founded in 2001 with funding from The J.P. McCarthy Fund and the Carls Foundation and is one of only 21 internationally recognized cord stem cell banks affiliated with the National Marrow Donor Program.

What is “cord blood”?
Cord blood is the blood left over in the umbilical cord and placenta after a baby is born.

Why is it important?
Cord blood is rich in blood-forming stem cells that can be used to treat people with leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell disease and other life-threatening conditions.

Are cord blood stem cells the same as embryonic stem cells?
No. Cord blood stem cells do not come from an embryo. They are in the blood of the umbilical cord and placenta.

What is usually done with cord blood after the baby is born?
Unless the mother decides otherwise, the cord blood is thrown away as a medical waste product.

What other options are there?
Talk to your doctor, midwife, or nurse about your options.

  • Public cord blood bank – cord blood can be donated to a public cord blood bank. This makes the cord blood available for any person in need of a transplant. It is done anonymously. There is no charge to you if you donate the cord blood to a public bank.
  • Research – Cord blood can be donated for research studies. Doctors, researchers, laboratories and technology companies conduct studies on cord blood to develop new therapies and learn more about the biology of cells.
  • Private cord blood bank – cord blood can be stored in a private cord blood bank for use by your family. In the event that someone related to your baby requires treatment for leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell disease or another serious condition, the cord blood might provide a suitable match for a transplant. Collection and annual storage fees will be charges.

If you decide to bank or donate your baby’s cord blood, arrangements must be made before you deliver the baby.

Why is it important to have a large number of different cord blood units available?
For a transplant to be successful, the tissue type of the donor needs to match the patient’s as closely as possible. The likelihood of a close match between any two people (even family members) is very small. A large number of banked units increase the likelihood that a match will be found for a specific person.

Why is there an urgent need for minority and mixed-ethnicity donors?
Tissue types are inherited so people are more likely to match someone who shares their racial or ethnic heritage. Stem cells of African American, Asians, Hispanics and Native Americans are in very short supply. Increasing the number of units from these families will improve the odds that a match will be found for people of African American, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, or mixed decent.

Will donating my baby’s umbilical cord blood change my delivery experience?
Donating cord blood will not change your labor or delivery in any way. During delivery, all the focus is on you and your baby. No blood is ever taken from your baby, only from the cord and placenta after the baby is born and the umbilical cord has been cut.

Who can donate?
Almost any woman can donate her baby’s cord blood. Both mom and baby must be healthy, with no history of infectious disease and it must be a single birth (meaning not twins or triplets).

Does it cost anything to donate cord blood?
There is no cost to you when you donate cord blood to a public cord blood bank.

How is our privacy protected if I donate to a public bank?
The cord blood bank keeps your names confidential; it protects the privacy of the donating family. Names are not shared with any patient or transplant center. The cord blood is identified by number, never by name.

If I donate to a public cord blood bank will the cord blood be available for use by someone in my family?
Donated cord blood is available for use by anyone who needs it. If the donated cord blood is still in the bank, it would be available for a member of the donating family who is in need of a transplant. Keep in mind that the cord blood might not be a good tissue match even though the patient is related to the baby.

What happens to the cord blood once it is collected?
Cord blood is processed, frozen and stored in the J.P. McCarthy Cord Stem Cell Bank at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit. This local, public cord blood bank is a network bank in the National Marrow Program making the cord blood available for any person in the world who needs a transplant. The units are listed in the NMDP Registry.

What if I want to donate my baby’s cord blood?
You must pre-register during your pregnancy. If you agree to donate your baby’s cord blood, you will be asked to:

  1. Spend 15 minutes speaking with a Cord Blood Bank staff member to complete a confidential maternal and family history form.
  2. Sign a consent form.
  3. Provide a blood sample, drawn from your arm when you are admitted to the hospital, which will be tested for infectious diseases like hepatitis and HIV.

What if I have more questions?
Please call J.P. McCarthy Cord Blood Program at 313-576-8750.

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