April is known as “National Donate Life” month, when people are encouraged to register as organ, eye and tissue donors.
Though many are familiar with that life saving choice, they may not be aware of a lesser-known practice, available to expectant mothers: cord blood donation. Through this relatively simple process, blood is collected from the umbilical cord and placenta after birth and used to treat nearly 80 life-threatening diseases.
“Cord blood is a source of stem cells for cancer patients like lymphoma and leukemia. It comes from the umbilical cord and cells are removed by stripping the cord and then putting it in a container and shipping it to LifeSource for processing,” said Dave Berry, Vice President for Business Development at The Institute for Transfusion Medicine (ITxM).
Pregnant women have two options when it comes to cord blood banking. They can bank it privately, for future use within their family, or they can donate it to a public cord blood bank, where it’s available to anyone who is a match.
“I wanted to donate my baby’s cord because I knew that it was a valuable resource used for different types of patients. I was frustrated because all I could find was private cord banks. And now coming to ITxM and LifeSource, having the public cord bank, one of the largest in the country, its just one of those things that if people knew it was out there, I think that it’s something they would choose to do,” said Christine Pappas, Director of Marketing, Customer Strategy at ITxM.
The National Donor Marrow Program provides doctors with access to 601,000 cord blood units worldwide. Recipients are more likely to find a match from someone who shares their heritage, so a diverse pool of donors is needed.
For those suffering from leukemia, lymphoma and other blood diseases, cord blood may be their only cure. Seven out of 10 people will not have a matching donor in their family.
While the cord blood donation process does not affect the delivery experience or the baby, it does require some planning. Make sure your hospital collects cord blood and be sure to contact the cord blood bank that works with your hospital between your 28th and 34th week of pregnancy.
To find out more about public cord blood donations, visit BeTheMatch.org.
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