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Cord Blood FAQs

 

Every year, hundreds of patients in Canada need a lifesaving stem cell transplant and most are relying on the generosity of an unrelated donor. If you are a pregnant mom living in a city with a designated public cord blood collection hospital, you and your tiny hero could save a life by donating cord blood.

Review the list of frequently asked questions below as they may assist you in your decision to donate cord blood.

 

Join Canada’s Lifeline

Take the cord blood registration questionnaire to confirm your eligibility.

Frequently asked questions about cord blood

What is cord blood?

Cord blood is the blood left in the umbilical and placenta after a baby is born. It is rich in lifesaving stem cells had can help treat over 80 diseases and disorders.

What are stem cells?

Stem cells, specifically blood stem cells, are found in bone marrow, peripheral (circulating) blood and umbilical cord blood. Blood stem cells are not embryonic stem cells. They are immature cells can develop into any cell present in the bloodstream.

Red blood cells carry oxygen through out the body.

White blood cells fight infection.

Platelets help control bleeding.

Our bodies are constantly manufacturing these cells to sustain life. Without these healthy cells, the consequences can be life-threatening.

What unique advantages do cord blood stem cells have over bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells?

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 when needed, decreasing patient wait times associated with the search for a marrow or peripheral blood stem cell donor.
  • Donated cord blood does not need to be an exact match to a patient. It can be a great option for ethnically diverse patients who cannot find a match within the stem cell registry.
  • Cord blood transplants are associated with a lower risk of graft-versus-host disease (GvHD), a common and 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 potentially be lethal for transplant recipients.
What is Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank?

Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank is Canada’s public cord blood bank, founded in 2013. Expectant mothers have the opportunity to donate cord blood at four designated collection sites across Canada, each located in Ottawa, Brampton, Edmonton and Vancouver. Its mandate is to bridge the gap of underrepresented ethnically diverse donors on the national stem cell registry.

What is the difference between Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank and a private bank?

Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank is not affiliated with any private cord blood banks. There are no charges associated with public cord blood banking.

Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank 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. Continuous donations by mothers from diverse ethnic backgrounds broadens the pool of cord blood units in the public system, making it easier to find matches for patients who cannot otherwise find a match.

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.
  • Free of infectious diseases (such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis).
  • Free of inherited diseases or medical conditions that could be passed on to the recipient.
  • Willing to donate to any patient in need.

Speak with your healthcare provider to discuss public cord blood donation. If you have more questions regarding eligibility, contact 1 888 2 DONATE (1-888-236-6283) or email cordblood@blood.ca.

Learn more about cord blood registration and eligibility

Where can I donate cord blood?

You can donate cord blood at four hospitals across Canada:

  • The Ottawa Hospital (General campus) in Ottawa, Ontario
  • The William Osler Health System’s Brampton Civic Hospital in Brampton, Ontario
  • The Alberta Health Services’ Lois Hole Hospital for Women in Edmonton, Alberta
  • The BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia

Despite not being in other locations the cord blood units collected at these hospitals are building Canada's national inventory for any patient in need, in Canada or around the world.

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.

What is the process for donating cord blood?

Donating cord blood is free and easy. Start by being fully informed. For detailed information, visit How cord blood donation works.

Are there any risks to me or my baby?

Donating cord blood to Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank poses no risk to the mother or baby. Once the baby is delivered, the umbilical cord is cut and the placenta is delivered and passed over to the cord blood collection team.

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

If you decide to delay the cord clamping, speak with your physician or midwife prior to delivery and let them know that you would also like to donate your cord blood. Timing of umbilical cord clamping is a joint decision between the family and the health care provider.

A minimum of 60 seconds delay before clamping of the umbilical cord is standard care for full term healthy babies. Longer delays will reduce the amount of cord blood available for donation, however we will continue to collect the cord blood with your consent. Donating does not affect your birth plan in any way.

Can you guarantee that you will collect and bank my cord blood?

In the unlikely situation that there are multiple births at the same time, we sometimes can’t collect from all donors. Cord blood must be collected immediately after delivery. If you don’t make any arrangements with regards to your umbilical cord and placenta, they are discarded as per the hospital’s policy.

Other reasons we might not collect and bank your cord blood:

  • There is not enough blood in your placenta and umbilical cord to collect
  • The number of cells in the donation are too small for a patient needing a transplant
  • Your temperature has risen and there is risk of infection
  • Equipment failure on our behalf
  • Timing of the delivery being outside our operating hours
  • Other medical issues
What happens after my cord blood donation?

We test a small amount of the cord blood at the hospital to ensure it has enough cells for a patient requiring a stem cell transplant. If your donation does not qualify, with your consent, it can be used for research instead of discarded.

Approximately 15-25% of cord blood collected will qualify and this is not a reflection of the health of the mother or the baby.

If your cord blood unit qualifies, a member of the cord blood collection team will visit you before you leave the hospital to collect some additional information including:

  • A second consent
  • A blood test (only from mother) and
  • A health assessment questionnaire
  • Review of medical chart (baby and mother)

Your consent and blood test must be received before you are discharged from the hospital or your cord blood donation will be discarded.

If you do not meet with a cord blood collection team member before being discharged from the hospital, this means that your cord blood donation did not meet the minimum cell count needed.

*Sample consent forms, Chagas questions and health assessment questionnaires

English 

Informed ConsentMaternal Assessment of Samples form for Chagas QuestionsMedical History and Health Assessment Questionnaire

French 

Consentement éclairéFormulaire pour l’analyse d’échantillons de sang maternel — questions sur la maladie de ChagasQuestionnaire médical

Punjabi ਪੰਜਾਬੀ

Informed ConsentMaternal Assessment of Samples form for Chagas QuestionsMedical History and Health Assessment Questionnaire

SCH 简体中文

Informed ConsentMaternal Assessment of Samples form for Chagas QuestionsMedical History and Health Assessment Questionnaire

TCH 繁體中文

Informed ConsentMaternal Assessment of Samples form for Chagas QuestionsMedical History and Health Assessment Questionnaire

Arabic

Informed ConsentMaternal Assessment of Samples form for Chagas QuestionsMedical History and Health Assessment Questionnaire
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, the blood stem cells 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.

Is cord blood tested?

Yes. Cord blood is tested to identify the presence of any of the following:

  • 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)
  • Chagas disease (if applicable)

Your baby’s cord blood is also tested for markers that will match your donated cord blood to a patient for blood type (ABO), cytomegalovirus (CMV) and hemoglobin abnormalities such as sickle cell disease. Only the mother requires a blood test. The tests for baby are done on the donated cord blood itself.

If any of your cord blood tests result in a positive, we share the results with your doctor.

How is my privacy protected?

We are committed to protecting your privacy and personal information. For more information, please read our Privacy Notice.

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 16 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). Over 80 diseases and disorders — including leukemia, lymphoma and aplastic anemia — can be treated with cord blood stem cells.

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

We manage a research program  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.

Canadian Blood Services is committed to supporting research in our partner hospitals in addition to the Cord Blood for Research Program. We work closely with our hospital researchers to provide cord blood and/or placenta samples that support research studies that are compatible with cord blood collection. Mothers may be approached by a hospital researcher who will explain the research study and answer any questions. Alternatively, mothers may be asked to participate in research by a hospital researcher who is not associated with the Cord Blood Bank whether she consents to research on the consent form.

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.