Cord blood donation 

Cord blood is the blood that remains in the placenta and umbilical cord after a baby is born. It can be used to treat many life-threatening conditions.

For example, conditions such as leukaemia (cancer of the bone marrow cells) and problems with the immune system (the body's defence system) can be treated with a cord blood transplant.

After a baby is born, the placenta and umbilical cord are usually thrown away. However, as this is a rich source of stem cells, the NHS Cord Blood Bank was set up in 1996 to collect, process, store and supply cord blood for transplants.

Once the cord blood has been processed and frozen, it can be stored until a patient with a matching tissue type needs a stem cell transplant. Research has shown that units can be stored for up to 20 years. 

Mothers must give their consent for the cord blood and any part of the placenta or cord itself to be collected. Without consent, the placenta and cord blood will be thrown away. When giving consent for the donation, the mother gives up all future rights to the donation. You can register your interest in donating your cord blood on the NHS Cord Blood Bank website.

Cord blood can usually only be collected in hospitals where there are specially trained staff. Currently, these are:

  • Barnet General Hospital
  • Northwick Park Hospital, Harrow
  • Luton and Dunstable Hospital
  • Watford General Hospital
  • St George's Hospital, London
  • University College Hospital, London

This ensures that cord blood is handled correctly and stored in the NHS Cord Blood Bank for doctors to use for their patients.

In special cases, cord blood is also collected under the NHS when it is needed for an older child in the same family. These collections are arranged by NHS Blood and Transplant, and attempts are made to make the donation as convenient as possible. Preferably, the donation will be made at the nearest hospital with birthing facilities.

Some private companies also make cord blood collections for individual families for possible future use. However, the NHS does not support this type of collection, as the chances of using the cord blood in the future are extremely low.

Read more information about donating your cord blood on the NHS Cord Blood Bank website.

Page last reviewed: 07/10/2014

Next review due: 07/10/2016