Frequently Asked Questions

How is cord blood collected?

Usually, in routine deliveries, cord blood is collected from the umbilical cord during the third stage of labor. This is after the baby is delivered and the cord is cut, while the obstetrician is waiting for the delivery of the placenta. The entire procedure takes five minutes or less, and is painless and safe. A needle is placed into one of the veins in the umbilical cord, and the cord blood flows through tubing into a collection bag, just as for donations of regular blood. The same needle and bag set up is used for babies delivered by Caesarean section. After the cord is cut and the placenta is removed, one of the nurses will usually take it to a separate area and collect the cord blood from the placenta.

How much does it cost?

The Hawaii Cord Blood Bank is a public bank. There is no charge to donor families who contribute their newborn baby's cord blood. The cord blood donation is completely free and anonymous. Collection, processing, and storage charges are paid for by the Hawaii Cord Blood Bank, which in turn is funded by grants, as well as contributions from individuals/organizations wishing to support its mission and activities.

Should I privately store my baby's cord blood just in case my child later developed leukemia, and needed a transplant?

Umbilical cord blood contains the same kinds of cells as those found in bone marrow. Leukemias are cancers of these bone marrow cells, so giving patients their own cells back in the form of their umbilical cord blood would be tempting fate by allowing the whole cancer-forming process to start all over again. The best source of cells for these kinds of transplants is therefore a normal donor...someone else's cells.

What about privately banking my baby's umbilical cord blood?

Unlike the Hawaii Cord Blood Bank, there are many for-profit companies that advertise their services to store umbilical cord blood. This is called PRIVATE, or family, cord blood banking. Companies usually charge an up front fee ($1,100 to $1,500) to collect your baby's cord blood, and a yearly storage fee ($75 to $100) thereafter. Saving your child's own umbilical cord blood is often marketed as a way to give your child "biological insurance," so that if your child ever needed a transplant, the blood would be there. These companies claim that cord blood can be used to treat any disease that is currently treated by bone marrow transplantation, and that cord blood can always be used for the child from whom the blood came from because it is a perfect match.

It may be hard for you to decide whether public or private cord blood banking is the best option for you. Most pediatric oncologists involved with transplant feel that in families with no known risk factors for cancer or certain inherited diseases, cord blood storage in a public bank such as Hawaii Cord Blood Bank will allow these units to be used to their highest capacity. If you choose to take part in this program, the aloha you show will make a significant contribution to a valuable resource, that will benefit a great number of people.

What is cord blood?

Bone marrow transplants have been performed for the past 20 years, and are an effective treatment for many life-threatening diseases, including aggressive forms of cancer, aplastic anemia and other diseases of the blood, as well as problems of the immune system. Bone marrow contains special, multi-purpose cells, called stem cells. These stem cells are capable of developing into the complete array of mature cell types needed for blood to carry out its complex functions, like carry oxygen (red blood cells), stop bleeding (platelets), and fight infection (white blood cells). In some cases, bone marrow transplant is used to replace the patient's own defective cells. More commonly, transplant is needed to rescue cancer patients from the otherwise fatal side effects of the intensive therapy required to cure them of their disease. In these instances, transplant provides them with new set of stem cells that are tumor-free.

Recently, the exciting discovery has been made that the blood contained in a baby's used umbilical cord, like bone marrow, is rich in these same life-giving stem cells. In fact, ounce for ounce, cord blood is far richer in these stem cells than bone marrow. Now, instead of being thrown away, which is what often happens to the baby's umbilical cord after delivery, the blood from the umbilical cord can be saved and stored. These banked cells may give some patient a second chance at life by allowing them to have a transplant.

Who can donate?

There is an especially high need worldwide for donors of Asian, Polynesian, or mixed ethnicity, however Hawaii Cord Blood Bank welcomes any interested donors. If mother is at least 18 years old, in good health, and is having a normal singleton pregnancy, chances are good that baby's cord blood will be eligible for donation. Talk to your doctor. Mothers interested in donating their baby’s umbilical cord blood at one of the local hospitals here on Oahu have several options for enrollment. They can contact Hawaii Cord Blood Bank by email or phone to request an enrollment packet; download and send in the completed forms from our website; or they can sign up upon arrival at the hospital. For more information on donating your baby's umbilical cord blood, click on the Get Started tab located at the right upper corner of any page on our website.

Why is cord blood donation important?

Despite the thousands of bone marrow transplants performed thus far, many patients are unable to undergo this potentially life saving procedure. A major limiting factor is the availability of stem cells that are adequately matched to the donor. The best source of these matched cells is usually a patient’s brother or sister. Unfortunately, only about a third of all potential recipients in need of such a donor have a matched family member. Unrelated, compatible donors can be identified, and their cells used successfully in transplants. More than 11 million Americans have been voluntarily typed, and are listed with the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) as potential marrow donors. Approximately 25% of all stem cell transplants performed today utilize unrelated marrow donors.

Still, despite the large number of volunteers in the NMDP, over 30% of patients without a family match are unable to find a suitably matched unrelated donor. This is especially true for those of Asian, Polynesian, and mixed ethnic ancestry. These ethnic groups are among the most diverse of all those that are represented in the NMDP. Relative to their proportion in the general population, Asian/Pacific Islander and mixed ethnic patients are the most under represented in the NMDP, and face the most difficulty in finding donors. Many of these patients wait months, or even die before a matching donor can be located. That's why there's an urgent need for more donors from these groups.

Cord blood can help fill this need. At the present time, cord blood banks provide an excellent complimentary source of stem cells to the bone marrow registries. Hawaii's ethnic diversity poses a special challenge, but also provides us with a unique opportunity. The Hawaii Cord Blood Bank is a public bank that is open to anyone seeking a matching donor. It will help make life-saving transplants more available to people here, as well as to ethnic minorities living on the Mainland, and in countries throughout the Pacific Basin.