Cord blood collection
Cord blood is the blood left behind in the placenta and umbilical cord after the birth of a baby.
It is a rich source of blood-forming stem cells that can be used for both children and adults needing bone marrow transplants. Women who give birth at the Women’s Parkville campus can donate cord blood so that it is available to any suitably matched person in the world who needs a bone marrow transplant. This service is currently not available at the Women's at Sandringham.
The Women’s does not support the collection of cord blood that is stored by private companies.
Collection - what is involved?
There are midwives from the Bone Marrow Institute (BMDI) Cord Blood Bank at the Women's Parkville campus. If you wish to donate cord blood, they will meet with you to talk about what is involved and to get your consent.
A Cord Blood Bank midwife will collect the cord blood when your baby is born. This can only happen if your baby is born during regular business hours. A detailed history of your health is taken as well as a sample of your blood to test for infectious diseases.
Your blood sample and cord blood is forwarded to the Cord Blood Bank for testing and storage. This is at the Royal Children's Hospital. The cord blood is stored in liquid nitrogen at a very low temperature. This will keep the cells healthy until they are needed for a bone marrow transplant.
Information about your cord blood is sent to the Australian Bone Marrow and Cord Blood Donor Registry, which can be searched by transplant centres for their patients, worldwide.
A Cord Blood Bank nurse will contact you at around six months after the birth of your baby for a follow-up review of you and your baby's health status before the donation can be used for a bone marrow transplant.
What is cord blood used for?
Cord blood is normally thrown away after the birth and yet for many people it is a very valuable resource. It is a source of blood stem cells for patients who need a bone marrow transplant and have few other options. Cord blood that isn’t a perfect match is more effective than poorly matched bone marrow because the body is less likely to react against it. Over the last 20 years, many patients have benefitted from cord blood transplants.
Some commercial groups claim that cord blood can prevent or cure a range of diseases, but there is currently insufficient evidence to prove this. Cord blood research throughout the world continues to explore how it may have a role in the treatment of various conditions in the future.
Who manages the Cord Blood Bank?
The cord blood collected at the Women’s is donated to the BMDI Cord Blood Bank, which was established at the Royal Children’s Hospital with philanthropic funding from BMDI (now the Figh Cancer Foundation). It is managed by a consortium of the Royal Children's Hospital, the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and the Fight Cancer Foundation. The BMDI Cord Blood Bank is one of three public cord blood banks in Australia, forming the AusCord network, funded by Commonwealth and State Governments.
Can my family use my baby’s cord blood?
If a member of your family needs a bone marrow transplant, their brothers and sisters will be checked to see if they match (a 1 in 4 chance for each sibling pair). If no matched donor is identified the doctors would then search the world marrow and cord blood registers to find the best matched and the most suitable product. If the child who donated the cord blood is matched with the sick sibling, the cord blood will be made available if it is still in the bank. However it will NOT be kept specifically for your family's use.
Cord blood cannot be released for unproven treatments except under exceptional circumstances.
It is important to remember that your baby's cord blood may have already been released for a life-saving transplant and no longer available. However, in such an instance, if the cord blood is matched with another child in the family, their bone marrow will be equally matched and could be used in the treatment of the sick sibling.
If another of your children has a condition that can be treated with a bone marrow transplant (eg. leukaemia , sickle cell disease) their doctor should discuss arrangements for collection of your baby's cord blood with your obstetrician. The BMDI Cord Blood Bank staff are not involved in this situation but special arrangements may be made for a private bank to collect and store your baby's cord blood under these circumstances. This needs to be discussed and arranged well in advance.
The Women's position regarding the collection and storage of your baby's cord blood with a private company
The Women's does not encourage the private collection and storage of cord blood. It is against the Women's policy to collect cord blood for your own family's exclusive use because:
the Women's does not agree with all of the claims made by private storage companies about the future health benefits of blood storage
while cord blood stem cell transplantation is now a recognised therapy for a variety of blood and metabolic disorders, the use of cord blood for other conditions is still in the early experimental phase
we cannot guarantee the cord blood would be collected - our staff priority is to provide optimal care to mother and baby. We will not commit staff time (paid by the public health system) to collecting cord blood that is stored for private profit
we do not want to endorse commercial services or products particularly when all the advertised benefits for patients are not guaranteed or scientifically established.
While this is our current policy, we remain committed to reviewing our policy in the future and possibly changing our policy as more research on cord blood use becomes available.
The Women's supports the collection of cord blood by the public Cord Blood Bank because:
the service is voluntary and cost free to mothers. Philanthropic donation of cord blood for banking is to be encouraged by public health services
sick patients from all over the world are given the chance of a life-saving transplant by having a large number of cord blood units available as a potential source of donor cells.
Related Health Topics
Cord blood collection
These fact sheets explain the difference between donating cord blood (to the BMDI Cord Blood Bank at The Royal Children's Hospital) and arranging for cord blood collection with a private company. They also explain why the Royal Women's Hospital does not collect cord blood to be stored by private companies. All mothers donating cord blood to the BMDI Cord Blood Bank will be asked to read About AusCord and Public Cord Blood Banking before providing informed consent. They will also be asked to complete a questionnaire and give a blood sample which is tested for infectious diseases to determine eligibility.
- Cord blood collection