Cord blood FAQs

Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank collects, tests, and stores cord blood for future use by a matching patient in need of an unrelated stem cell transplant.  

Read the FAQs below to learn more.

FAQs

What are blood stem cells?

Blood stem cells are immature cells that give rise to the cells found in the bloodstream: 

  • Red blood cells - cells that carry oxygen  

  • White blood cells – cells that fight infection  

  • Platelets – cells that help control bleeding.  

There are three sources of blood stem cells used for transplantation: umbilical cord blood, bone marrow and peripheral blood stem cells that can be collected from the blood after treatment (with stimulation factors to increase their circulation in the blood). Our bodies are constantly manufacturing these cells in order to sustain life. Without these healthy cells, the consequences can be life-threatening.  

Are there benefits to using cord blood stem cells over other sources?

Cord blood stem cells have unique advantages over bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells. 

  • They are collected in advance, stored and ready for use immediately as needed, decreasing patient wait times associated with the search for a marrow or peripheral blood stem cell donor. 

  • It is easier to match transplant patients with cord blood than with other stem cell sources because an exact match is not needed. 

  • Cord blood transplants are associated with a lower risk of graft-versus-host disease (GvHD), which is a common serious immune-mediated side effect of transplantation. 

  • Transplanting cord blood stem cells can also reduce the risk of transmitting viral infections such as cytomegalovirus (CMV) that can be potentially lethal for transplant recipients. 

What is Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank?

Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank recruits healthy volunteer mothers delivering at a designated collection hospital. Eligible cord blood is collected from the donors’ umbilical cord and placenta, tested and stored for future use by a matching patient in need of an unrelated stem cell transplant.

What are the differences between Canadian Blood Services' Cord Blood Bank and a private bank?

Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank is not affiliated with any private cord banks. There are no charges associated with cord blood banking at Canadian Blood Services' Cord Blood Bank. Public cord blood banking makes stem cells available to anyone who needs them. Public cord blood donation increases the volume and diversity of cord blood units available for patients. Numerous donations by mothers from diverse ethnic backgrounds will broaden the pool of cord blood units in the public system, making it easier to find matches for patients who cannot otherwise find a match).

Where can I donate cord blood?

You can donate cord blood at the following four hospitals:

Ottawa — at the Ottawa Hospital General Campus

Brampton (Greater Toronto Area) — at the William Osler Health System’s Brampton Civic Hospital

Edmonton — at the Alberta Health Services’ Lois Hole Hospital for Women

Vancouver — at the BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre.

Am I eligible to donate cord blood to Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank?

You are eligible to donate cord blood if you are: 

  • A healthy mother (and baby) with no medical conditions that could be passed on the recipient patient 

  • 18 years or older, with your signed consent 

  • Not delivering before 34 weeks in your pregnancy 

  • Not having twins, triplets, or more 

  • Fluent in English or French. 

Speak with your healthcare provider to learn if you are an eligible candidate for cord blood donation.  

Learn more about cord blood registration and eligibility. 

What is the process for donating cord blood?

You can start your process by registering online. Speak with your healthcare provider and review our information kit online before registering to donate cord blood.  

Once you have completed your registration and consented to donating cord blood, your cord blood will be collected ex utero (outside the uterus) by a designated Canadian Blood Services personnel after both your baby and placenta are delivered. 

Following collection, the cord blood unit will be sent to one of our manufacturing facilities where it will be processed, tested and stored in a special freezer. 

Learn more about the cord blood donation process. 

Are there any risks to my baby or myself?

We do not interfere with the natural process of the delivery of your baby. The risks to your health and your baby’s health are very low, as blood stem cells are collected from the umbilical cord/placenta after the delivery of your baby.

Can I delay the cord-clamping if I want to donate my baby’s cord blood?

Delayed cord-clamping allows more blood to flow to your baby. This may benefit preterm, low birth-weight infants by preventing anemia and improving iron stores. The potential benefit to healthy term babies is less clear. To understand whether delayed cord-clamping could help your infant, ask your healthcare provider. 

We currently collect cord blood units from all eligible donors regardless of the time of cord-clamping. Though, delayed cord-clamping leaves less blood in the cord and placenta which often results in lower numbers of stem cells in the collected product. Yet, the effect(s) of delayed cord-clamping on cord blood stem cell collection is uncertain at this time. 

Does it cost money to donate cord blood?

There is no cost to mothers who donate cord blood to Canadian Blood Services' Cord Blood Bank; all donations are made through the generosity of each individual donor.

How is my privacy protected?

We are committed to protecting your privacy and personal information. Please read our 

 for more information. 

 

Is cord blood tested?

Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank is required to perform certain tests on your baby's cord blood and your blood to determine eligibility for storage such as:

human immunodeficiency virus (HIV, the virus that causes AIDS)

Hepatitis B and C viruses (HBV and HCV)

Human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV), syphilis and West Nile Virus (WNV)

Your babies’ cord blood is also tested for markers that will match the cord blood to a patient and blood type, and to check for cytomegalovirus (CMV) and hemoglobin abnormalities such as sickle cell disease.

How long can cord blood be stored?

Cord blood stem cell donations are kept in liquid nitrogen at a temperature of -196 degrees Celsius and can be stored for a very long time before being used. There are examples of cord blood stem cells being transplanted after 13 years without any detected deterioration in quality.

What will my baby’s cord blood be used for?

Eligible cord blood is stored and made available to any matching unrelated patient in need of a stem cell transplant (in Canada or around the world).

What happens if I do not donate my baby’s cord blood?

Cord blood that is not donated to Canadian Blood Services' Cord Blood Bank is normally discarded as medical waste, unless other personal arrangements have been made.

Will I be able to reserve my baby’s cord blood for my own family’s use?

If you donate cord blood to Canadian Blood Services' Cord Blood Bank, your cord blood will be available to any patient in Canada or around the world in need of a stem cell transplant. You cannot reserve donated cord blood for your family. To reserve donated cord blood for your family’s use, please make those arrangements directly with a private cord blood bank.

Do you offer translation services?

We offer free board-certified interpreters and translators in Punjabi and Chinese. If you are unable to communicate with us in English, email us at cordblood@blood.ca to request interpreter or translation services. We require 6-8 weeks’ notice to ensure all required forms are completed and received prior to your due date. 

An information package will be sent to you in your preferred language. This information will allow you to read, ask any questions, fill-out, sign and return the Registration form and Permission to Collect consent form prior to the birth of your baby. 

The package will contain the following: 

Documents 

Instructions 

Cord Blood Registration form 

Complete and email scan or mail immediately 

Scan and email to: cordblood@blood.ca 

Mail to: Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank  
 
Vancouver/Edmonton: 
8249 114th Street,  
Edmonton AB, T6G 2R8  
 
Ottawa/Brampton: 
40 Concourse Gate,  
Ottawa, ON, K2E 8A6 

Permission to Collect consent form 

Complete and email scan or mail immediately as above. 

Privacy Notice 

Read and if questions email us at cordblood@blood.ca

Information for Cord Blood Donation (brochure) 

Read and if questions email us at cordblood@blood.ca

Informed Consent 

Read and if questions email us at cordblood@blood.ca
This may be completed with you at a later date. 

Cord Blood Maternal Assessment of Samples form 

Read and if questions email us at cordblood@blood.ca
This may be completed with you at a later date. 

Medical History and Health Questionnaire 

Read and if questions email us at cordblood@blood.ca
This may be completed with you at a later date. 

 

What is Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood for Research Program?

Occasionally, cord blood may be used for other purposes such as quality control or process and product improvement. Depending upon which hospital your baby’s cord blood is collected, cord blood that is not eligible for storage may be  

  • Used and/or distributed for research purposes by the Canadian Blood Services Cord Blood Bank with your consent. 

  • Returned to the hospital, where it may be used and/or distributed for research purposes, with your consent. 

  • Discarded. 

We manage a research program in Ottawa that provides Canadian researchers with non-bankable cord blood units for biomedical research that could lead to scientific advances and improvements in clinical and medical care. Researchers needing cord blood are asked to apply to the Cord Blood for Research program. Donated cord blood will be distributed to researchers for use in biomedical research only if: 

  • The baby’s collected cord blood is unsuitable (*for banking or transplantation) 

  • The mother has given her consent for her baby’s cord blood to be used for biomedical research 

  • The research project in question has been approved. 

*Cord blood may be unsuitable for banking if the amount collected is too small or the blood itself does not meet the specific requirements of Canadian Blood Services' Cord Blood Bank. 

What happens after my cord blood donation?

 

After the blood that is in the placenta and umbilical cord is collected, a preliminary test is done to determine if the cord blood unit qualifies to be stored in the bank. If your cord blood donation meets the requirements for storage in Canadian Blood Services' Cord Blood Bank, a nurse will visit you to complete a medical questionnaire, a consent form and take a sample of your blood. 

Sometimes the cord blood collected may not have enough volume or cell count to be used for a blood stem cell transplant. Please note that this is not a reflection of your or your baby’s health in any way. 

Sample questionnaires

English 

Informed Consent - OttawaInformed Consent - Brampton, Edmonton, Vancouver

Maternal Assessment of Samples form for Chagas Questions

Medical History and Health Assessment Questionnaire

French 

Consentement éclairé - OttawaConsentement éclairé - Brampton, Edmonton, Vancouver

Formulaire pour l’analyse d’échantillons de sang maternel — questions sur la maladie de Chagas

Questionnaire médical

Punjabi ਪੰਜਾਬੀ

Informed Consent - OttawaInformed Consent - Brampton, Edmonton, Vancouver

Maternal Assessment of Samples form for Chagas Questions

Medical History and Health Assessment Questionnaire

SCH 简体中文

Informed Consent - OttawaInformed Consent - Brampton, Edmonton, Vancouver

Maternal Assessment of Samples form for Chagas Questions

Medical History and Health Assessment Questionnaire

TCH 繁體中文

Informed Consent - OttawaInformed Consent - Brampton, Edmonton, Vancouver

Maternal Assessment of Samples form for Chagas Questions

Medical History and Health Assessment Questionnaire

Book your donation