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Cord blood can be used to treat more than 80 diseases, including blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma. If you’re an expectant parent, you have several options when donating cord blood to help treat blood cancers and other life-threatening diseases. Unless you choose one of these options, the umbilical cord and placenta are typically discarded after the baby is born.

  • Donate to a public cord blood bank. When you donate to a public cord blood bank, your baby’s cord blood is available to any patient who needs a transplant. It is not reserved for your family. Currently only certain hospitals are able to collect umbilical cord blood for storage in public cord blood banks.
  • Store in a family (private) cord blood bank. Family cord blood banks often store cord blood exclusively for use by the family. A fee for collection as well as annual storage fees will be required.
  • Save for a sibling who has a medical need. When a biological sibling has a disease that may be treated with a cord blood transplant, parents can choose to save their baby’s cord blood for the sibling. Collecting and storing cord blood for sibling-directed donation is offered at little or no cost to eligible families. Contact a participating public cord blood bank or a family cord blood bank.

Cord blood banking: Public donation or family storage – what’s the difference?

Public banking

When you donate your baby’s umbilical cord for public use:

  • It’s available to any patient in need of a transplant; it is not reserved for your family members.
  • There is no cost to you because public cord blood banks cover the fees associated with processing, testing and storing donated cord blood.
  • It’s collected under strict quality standards to make sure the cord blood unit is usable for transplant. If standards aren’t met, the cord blood unit may be used for research to improve the transplant process for future patients, or the unit will be discarded.

Private storage

If you store the cord blood in a family (private) cord blood bank, it is reserved for your own family members. Family cord blood banks are available throughout the country for anyone. You are charged a fee for the collection and an annual fee to store the umbilical cord blood. More information about family cord blood banks can be found in our cord blood FAQs.

Additional Resources

The following resources provide more information that can help you make a decision that's best for your family:

American Academy of Pediatrics official policy statement, Cord Blood Banking for Potential Future Transplantation

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee Opinion on Umbilical Cord Blood Banking and FAQs  about cord blood donation

American Medical Association ethical guidelines for physicians about umbilical cord blood

American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation position statement and committee report on cord blood collection and preservation and a guide for parents

Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Parent's Guide to Cord Blood