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Tell them why you joined-spouse or partner
Include your spouse in your decision
Introduce your spouse to BTM

Introduce your spouse to Be The Match

Watch Celebrating Be The Match, bringing hope to thousands

The questions below are some of the most commonly asked questions from spouses and partners of potential donors like you. Click on each question to display the suggested responses and use the information to prepare yourself for your conversation.

You can also print this toolkit (PDF).

Donation basics

What did you join?

  • I joined the  Be The Match Registry®, the world's most diverse listing of volunteer donors. I am one of more than 41 million registry members across the globe.
  • Be The Match matches volunteer donors like me with thousands of patients with blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, sickle cell anemia or other life-threatening diseases.
  • For many people with blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, and other life-threatening diseases, a marrow transplant may be the best treatment option that could save their life.

Conversation tip: Tell your spouse or partner where and why you joined the registry in the first place. Did a friend’s child need a transplant? Did you hear about the strong need for donors from diverse racial and ethnic communities? This might help them understand your motivation for wanting to donate.

Why do you want to donate?

  • I made a commitment when I joined the registry and pledged to donate to any searching patient. I want to follow through with that commitment. I can help give a patient a second chance at life and hopefully more time with their family.
  • 70% of patients don’t find a fully matched donor within their family and depend on Be The Match to find a donor. I would want someone to help us if we were in the same situation.
  • Matching a patient is more complex than simply matching blood types. I could be the only person on the registry that can help this patient. Doctors match donors and patients based on many factors, the most important being their human leukocyte antigen (HLA) type. HLA are proteins – or markers – found on most cells in the body. Because the markers are inherited, patients are more likely to match someone of similar heritage.

Conversation tips:

  • Tell your spouse or partner specifically why you want to help this patient and how much it means to you. The best answer to this question is your personal motivation for donating.
  • Your spouse or partner might ask you for more information about the patient. It’s ok to tell them what you do know about the patient and that identities are kept confidential to protect both the donor and the patient.

What is involved in donation?

There are two methods of donation: peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) and bone marrow. The patient’s doctor chooses the donation method that is best for the patient.

PBSC donation is a nonsurgical procedure that takes place at a blood center or outpatient hospital facility that is experienced and participates in PBSC collections for Be The Match.

  • For five days leading up to donation, I will be given injections of a drug called filgrastim to increase the number of blood-forming cells in my bloodstream.
  • My blood will be removed through a needle in one arm and passed through a machine that separates out the blood-forming cells. The remaining blood is returned to me through the other arm. This process is called apheresis.
  • This method of donation is similar to the method used for plasma donation. However, PBSC donation typically takes longer than a plasma donation. If I donate in one day, it could take up to eight hours. If I donate over the course of two days, it will take 4-6 hours each day.
  • After donation, my collected cells are then transported to the patient’s location for transplant.

Marrow donation is a surgical outpatient procedure that takes place in a hospital operating room.

  • I will receive anesthesia and feel no pain during the donation.
  • Doctors use a needle to withdraw liquid marrow from both sides of the back of my pelvic bone.
  • The marrow replaces itself completely within 4-6 weeks.
  • After donation, my collected cells are then transported to the patient’s location for transplant.

What is filgrastim?

  • Filgrastim (Neupogen®) is given by injection to stimulate the bone marrow to make more blood-forming cells and moves them from the marrow into the bloodstream so they can be collected by apheresis.
  • In order to be able to donate enough peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) for a transplant, more of my cells need to be moved out of my marrow and into my bloodstream. One way to do this is by receiving filgrastim injections for five days leading up to donation.
  • Fewer than 1 percent of donors experience serious side effects and no long-term risks have been found to date. (See health concerns section of this toolkit for more information.)
  • Filgrastim is commonly used to treat cancer patients to boost their blood cell counts.

Conversation tip: If your spouse or partner is interested in learning more about the use of filgrastim, your donor contact representative is a good resource for more information.

How does a marrow transplant work?

  • First, patients undergo chemotherapy and sometimes radiation to destroy their diseased marrow. Then the donor’s healthy blood-forming cells are given to the patient, where they can begin to function and multiply.
  • For a patient’s body to accept these healthy cells, the patient needs a donor who is a close match based on their human leukocyte antigen (HLA) type.

I’ve never heard of this organization. Are you sure it’s legitimate?

  • Be The Match, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP), was founded in 1987 and has facilitated more than 120,000 transplants to give patients a second chance at life. Be The Match facilitated 6,714 transplants in 2022 and is a leader in the field of marrow and cord blood transplantation.
  • The U.S. government has entrusted Be The Match to operate the C. W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation program, the federal program supporting bone marrow and cord blood donation and transplantation.
  • The NMDP is the hub of a global network that connects 446 leading centers worldwide, including donor centers and transplant centers. They have standards designed to ensure that patients and donors receive high quality care and that government standards are met.

Conversation tip: Show your spouse or partner the Celebrating Be The Match, bringing hope to thousands video (YouTube) to give them a brief summary of the history of the NMDP and Be The Match.

Time and cost

Are you going to have to miss work? Can we afford this?

  • I may have to take some time off. The time commitment for the donation process is generally 20-30 hours over a 4-6 week period. I will have to participate in an information session, keep appointments for blood tests and complete a physical exam—all of these activities ensure that donation is safe for me and the patient.
  • Some states and some employers will cover wages for time away from work for donation. I’m going to talk with my boss and look at the statutes for our state.

Conversation tip: Speak with your donor contact representative about your schedule. They can help you determine a plan that you can share with your spouse or partner to put them at ease. They can also help you find resources that may be helpful to you.

Do you have to travel? Why can’t you just donate at any medical facility?

  • I may be asked to travel for the donation or any of the steps of the donation process. Nearly 40 percent of donors travel by air and stay one or more nights in a hotel. Be The Match will coordinate the travel arrangements and travel expenses are covered by Be The Match.
  • Travel is based on the needs and timeline of the patient and donor.
  • To ensure that the procedure is safe for donors, Be The Match only works with hospitals and facilities that are experienced in collecting marrow or PBSC, so if there is not a facility near us, I may need to travel.
  • I will not be traveling to the patient’s location for donation. My cells are transported to the patient’s location right after my donation.

Conversation note: If you need to travel and you have children, your spouse or partner may be concerned about childcare. Ask your donor contact representative for more information about available childcare resources.

What about expenses? Is this going to cost us anything?

  • All medical costs for the donation procedure are covered by Be The Match, or by the patient's medical insurance, as are travel expenses and other non-medical costs. The only cost to us might be time taken off from work.
  • Be The Match will cover child and pet care for any time we are away for donation.

Does this affect our family’s health insurance plan?

  • Not at all. Be The Match will give me a donor insurance card to take to all of my donation related appointments. Be The Match will be billed directly.

Can I come with you? If so, how much will that cost?

  • I am encouraged to bring one companion along with me to the donation. Expenses are covered for me and one companion. The role of my companion is to support me before, during and immediately following my donation.

Conversation tip: There are many factors to consider when choosing who to bring with you to the donation. While you might like to have your spouse or partner accompany you, it might be more help to you if they stay home to take care of the household while you’re away. Another family member or friend might be a more appropriate donation companion in some situations. Talk with your spouse or partner about the pros and cons of going with you to the donation. If you are interested in having your children go with you to the donation, check with your donor contact representative.

Health concerns

What about your health? Is this safe?

  • Be The Match takes all the necessary precautions to ensure the safety and well-being of their donors. They have a safety committee, called the Donor and Patient Safety Monitoring Committee, that ensures safe and effective processes and procedures are used in donation.
  • There are many steps involved in the donation process to ensure donating is safe for me. These steps include completing a health history questionnaire, physical exam and blood tests.

How does donating impact pregnancy and breastfeeding?

Female donors:

  • Donation does not impact my ability to have children.
  • If I choose to proceed with the donation process, we need to put our pregnancy plans on hold.
  • If I become pregnant during any stage of the process, I will not be allowed to donate.
  • It is recommended that I should consult with my personal physician after donation and before becoming pregnant. In the absence of clinical data, waiting to become pregnant until my next menstrual cycle after the last dose of filgrastim is recommended.

Conversation tip: Breastfeeding will be interrupted by donation. New moms should talk with their donor contact representative for more information.

Male donors:

  • Donation does not impact my ability to have children.
  • In the absence of clinical data, male donors should wait two days following the last dose of filgrastim to conceive a child.

What are the side effects and risks associated with filgrastim and PBSC donation?

  • If I donate PBSC, I may experience headaches, or bone or muscle aches for several days before donation. These are side effects from the filgrastim injections. The side effects go away shortly after the donation.
  • Common side effects of PBSC donation include bruising at the needle site, numbness or tingling and chills. These will go away shortly after the donation is completed.

What are the side effects and risks associated with marrow donation?

  • If I donate marrow, I can expect to feel some soreness in my lower back for a few days after donation or longer. Most marrow donors experience some pain, fatigue and stiffness following the donation. My marrow returns to normal levels within a few weeks. 
  • The majority (more than 98.5 percent) of donors from the Be The Match Registry feel completely recovered within a few weeks. A very small percentage (1.34 percent) of donors experience a serious complication due to anesthesia or damage to bone, nerve or muscle in their hip region.
  • Some donors said the experience was more painful than they expected, others, less painful.

How long does it take for you to recover from donation?

  • Most PBSC donors report full recovery within seven to ten days of donation.
  • Most marrow donors are back to their normal routine in a few days and most feel fully recovered within 21 days.
  • My donor center representative will follow up with me until I report a full recovery.

Conversation tip: It’s likely you will need help with your daily chores while you’re recovering. Talk with your spouse or partner about your daily tasks and determine how they will be accomplished. It might be helpful to ask another family member or friend to help around the house until you can resume normal activity.


What can I do to support you during the donation process?

  • You can support my decision to move forward in the process. I have researched the process and I am educated about the side effects and risks. I am willing to help this patient in need.
  • There may be days leading up to donation or after donation when I don’t feel well. You can help take care of me and monitor my health. We can review the donation materials together so we are both prepared for the side effects I may encounter.
  • I will need your emotional support. I might be feeling emotional as I go through this process and I may learn information about the health of the patient that may be hard for me.
  • As I recover from donation, I might not be able to do all of my normal household chores for a while. I may need help from you or another family member or friend. 
  • You can spread the word about donation. For people with life-threatening blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma or other diseases, a cure exists. Help make sure every patient gets the transplant they need by making a contribution or joining the registry. 

Who is making sure that your needs as the donor are being met?

  • My donor center representative is here to answer any questions I might have. They are professionals trained to advocate for, screen and educate potential donors about the donation process.
  • Be The Match has a Donor Advocacy team that represents the rights of all Be The Match donors.
  • You. Help me come up with questions to ask about the donation process. I would like your support throughout the donation experience.

Our cultural/religious beliefs do not support donation. I cannot support your decision.

  • I understand religious and cultural beliefs play an important role in our lives. However, most religious groups support donation.

Conversation tip: Offer to set up a meeting with your religious leader and your spouse or partner to discuss donation.