Life saving cord blood comes from the placenta and umbilical cord after a baby is born, which is usually just thrown away.
However cord blood has lots of stem cells in it, which can be used to treat patients suffering from conditions such as leukemia, blood disorders and bone marrow failure.
The NHS Cord Blood Bank was set up in 1996 and there are currently only six centers across the country where cord blood can be donated. Pregnant women must give birth at these hospitals to be able to donate. These are; Barnet General Hospital, Northwick Park Hospital (Harrow), Luton and Dunstable Hospital, Watford General Hospital, St George’s Hospital (London) and University College Hospital (London).
Mothers sign up for the cord blood being collected before they give birth and checks will take place to make sure that they are eligible. Those carrying twins or multiple births won’t be able to donate as the placenta will be too small to collect enough cells.
After the birth staff collect the placenta and umbilical cord to take it to be cleaned and the blood is extracted into a collection bag. Staff later visit the mother to check she is eligible to donate and take a blood sample which is tested in the same way as whole blood collections. Mother and baby are given a follow up call 12 weeks after the birth to see how they’re doing.
To find out more about donating cord blood on NHS Blood and Transplant’s website, click here.