Umbilical Cord Blood Donation

If you will soon be a new parent or a new parent again, UMass Memorial Medical Center offers you the opportunity to help another by donating your baby’s umbilical cord blood. Your donation of cord blood at delivery may save the life of another parent’s child, or could go to benefit research that is advancing scientific knowledge including disease management and treatment.

Umbilical cord blood – the blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta after a baby's birth – contains the same kind of stem cells that are found in bone marrow and used for transplants. Cord blood was once thought of as waste and simply thrown away but in fact it can be lifesaving to a patient in need or may help us learn more about human diseases.

Why Umbilical Cord Blood Donation Is Important

Every year, thousands of people are diagnosed with diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma and other blood disorders that may be treated and even cured with a cord blood or bone marrow transplant. For bone marrow transplants, doctors look for donors among a patient's family, friends, community and through bone marrow registries to find a match.  However, only about 30 percent of those in need will find a compatible match – even fewer among non-Caucasian patients. Additionally, donating bone marrow is a painful process for the donor. Donating cord blood is painless and the blood would be thrown away if not put to use. Cord blood donations add to the registry of blood and bone marrow transplant units available, enhancing the options for people in need that are seeking a match that could save their life.

How You Can Help

The Medical Center created the first cord blood donation program in New England. We desire to educate expecting parents about their options for cord blood banking and to offer cord blood donation to the public bank at Cord for Life.

Parents who cannot donate to public banking efforts are encouraged to donate cord blood for research being done at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and other affiliated labs. Cord blood has become a valuable resource for studies on diabetes, HIV, human immune system function, and other disease states and conditions. This research has the potential to benefit not only scientific knowledge and progress, but also future people that are in need of treatment.

Cord Blood Donation Is Free and Easy

Cord blood donation isn’t harmful to the parent or child, and there is no cost to you or your family. After the baby is delivered and separated from the umbilical cord and placenta, the cord blood is collected in a donation bag. For blood sent to public donation for transplant, the blood is "typed," identified by its genetic characteristics and entered in a database similar to that used to match donated organs with patients in need. 

It is a great reward when we learn that one of the UMass Memorial cord blood units has been identified as a potentially lifesaving match for a patient out there in the world. Our first match went to a 7-year-old in Italy, followed by many other units that went to patients of all ages in the United States and beyond.

Even if the donation cannot be used for transplant, it can be used for research to answer important questions about transplants and how the body develops. Cord blood collected and sent for research has only minimal information attached to it so that it is not able to be connected back to the parent or child. In donating, parents are aiding in the effort to study these questions and find answers that positively affect everyone’s health.

Donation Eligibility

Almost anyone can donate, and all ethnic groups are encouraged to donate. While finding a match can be difficult for any patient in need, it is especially tough for those from certain minority groups and mixed-race backgrounds. In order to donate for human transplantation, the parent must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be having a single baby – no twins or triplets
  • Have no history of Hepatitis B or C, HIV or diabetes requiring insulin
  • Have no history of organ transplantation
  • Have no history of cancer (cured skin cancer: basal cell/squamous cell and cervical cancer in situ is acceptable)
  • Not have had tattoos, nonsterile piercings or acupuncture done in the previous 12 months

Each of these requirements protects those who may receive the blood. Certain medical disorders that run in the family or travel to certain areas with malaria/Zika or a history of malaria/Zika may prevent one from donating. This information is reviewed at the time of consent.

In order to donate to research at UMass Medical School and other research affiliates, the parent must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Have no history of Hepatitis B or C, or HIV

How to Donate

Talk to your doctor, who may have information in his or her office. Contact us at cordblood@umassmemorial.org or call 508-334-6678. You may also sign up when you come to labor and delivery.