Everything You Need To Know About Cord Blood Donation
SPOILER ALERT: Brookwood Baptist Medical Center is the only hospital in Birmingham to offer cord blood donation to mothers & babies. A mother’s selfless donation of her cord blood after her baby is born can help save lives of people around the globe who need life-saving blood cells to treat blood cancers like leukemia & lymphoma.
Initially, the efforts of Dr. Ashley Tamucci, an OBGYN at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center, to bring cord blood donation to the hospital was backed by the fact that it can simply help save lives; it was not personal, not then anyway.
After four years of brainstorming different avenues to bring cord blood donation to the hospital, she discovered that LIFESouth, the company that manages Brookwood's blood transfusions, offered cord blood donation services through the arm of their company called LifeCord. And since LIFESouth is located on Brookwood’s campus, this was a perfect solution for retrievals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
As Dr. Tamucci was finalizing agreements with LifeCord, her best friend, Chappell White Anderson, received a cancer diagnosis, specifically lymphoma -- one of the diseases that benefits from cord blood. This heart-breaking diagnosis only fueled Dr. Tamucci’s fire to go live with the cord blood donations and within three months, Brookwood was officially taking donations. One month later, Dr. Tamucci’s friend lost her battle with leukemia in August.
“My work to bring cord blood donation to Brookwood was not personal in the beginning, but it certainly ended that way” Dr. Tamucci says, “In honor of Chap, I want to do everything I can to educate women on this priceless resource that can help those fighting these awful blood cancers. It’s completely painless, completely free, and I don’t think enough expecting women are aware of what exactly cord blood donation is and why it’s so important.”
If you find yourself in that category, ladies, not to worry. We caught up with Dr. Sarah Aultman, another OBGYN at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center with a passion for cord blood donation, to help explain the ins and outs of this life-saving service.
Q: What exactly is cord blood donation, & why is it so important?
After your baby is born, the cord is cut, and you've got baby skin-to-skin, the placenta is delivered. At that time, your OBGYN can collect the blood in the cord attached to the placenta. By donating umbilical cord blood, you choose to potentially help someone who needs a lifesaving transplant. This is because cord blood is rich in stem cells, which are used to treat blood cancers like leukemia & lymphoma. I urge all of my patients to consider donating because it’s a non-painful way to help ensure that people in need of lifesaving cord blood transplants are able to find a match. The two other ways we get them are through bone marrow transplant and multiple blood draws ...ouch!
Q: What’s the catch? Is there any reason why I shouldn’t donate my cord blood?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents consider private cord blood banking (vs. donation) if they already have a child with a blood cancer that could benefit from his/her siblings' cord blood. Otherwise, the AAP recommends donation, and so do the obstetricians that collect it!
Q: Is every mother eligible to donate her cord blood after delivery?
The mother must be at least 35 weeks, without signs of infection, and delivered within 18 hours of her water breaking. Also, multiple gestations like twins and triplets are not currently eligible for cord blood donation.
Q: If I choose to donate, how does that interfere with my labor & delivery experience?
Your birth experience is not affected by cord blood donation. You can still have delayed cord clamping, immediate skin-to-skin, and spontaneous delivery of the placenta.
Q: Where does my cord blood go after it’s been taken and what happens to it?
After the cord blood unit arrives at the LifeCord bank, it is processed just like how your blood is processed when you donate at a blood drive. The blood unit is then:
- Checked to be sure it has enough blood-forming cells for a transplant.
- Tested to be sure it’s free from infectious diseases.
- Tissue typed and then goes into a liquid nitrogen freezer for storage.
- Finally, its listed on Be The Match Registry® where it will be available for patients in need of a transplant. To protect your family’s privacy, the cord blood is identified only by number and never by name.
Q: Where does my cord blood go if I choose to not donate?
If you decline donation and do not want to privately bank your baby's cord blood, the placenta, cord and the blood contained in it is discarded like all other medical waste.
Q: Is there a cost associated with donating my cord blood?
Cord blood donation is completely free.
Q: Is there any way to know who is receiving my donation, and what impact it made on his/her life?
When you donate your baby's cord blood, you will get information and a thank you packet in the mail. If the cord blood is being prepared for use in treatment, you usually get a call from LifeCord to follow-up on your child's health. However, due to patient information protection, you will not be told who is receiving the cord blood or what cancer he/she has.
Q: After reviewing all of the information, I have decided I want to donate my cord blood. What do I need to do next?
Excellent! Between your 28th & 34th week of pregnancy, be sure to let your obstetrician know of your desire to donate your cord blood. He or she will review the guidelines with you to ensure you meet the required criteria and provide you with the next steps.
LifeCord, which was founded in 1998, is a pioneer as a public cord blood bank in the Southeast and the fifth in the country to be licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to manufacture cord blood. Lifesaving cord blood from LifeCord has already provided transplants to patients in 28 states and 13 countries so far, and now Brookwood moms have the opportunity to join that effort. For questions about cord blood donation, contact LifeCord through LifeSouth at (888) 795-2707.