Expectant Mothers and Cord Blood

"I am here today because 2 ordinary mothers who I have never met in my life, decided to do an extraordinary act & donate the stem cells from their baby's umbilical cord. I thank God that those women did not simply throw those cords out. I owe my life to them."
- Pamela, cancer survivor
Cord blood

What is cord blood banking?

Cord blood is found in the placenta and umbilical cord after a baby has been born. The blood is full of strong and healthy stem cells so it can be collected and stored on the Cord Blood Registry to help cure patients from diseases like cancer. 

How do I donate?

You will need to mention your wish to donate the cord blood to your Doctor or midwife so they can ensure the measurements are in place for it to happen on the day of delivery (must be aged between 18 - 45 unless you are an indigenous mother delivering at the Royal Darwin hospital, which in that case you need to be aged 16 or over). It may not be available at the hospital you are giving birth at and the timing of the birth needs to coincide with when the trained staff are working so they are able to collect the cells. Of course no one knows the exact time your little bundle of joy will arrive but the best thing to do is let your health team know of your wish!

How does it help?

The stem cells found in the umbilical cord can be used in the same way as adult bone marrow/stem cells to give a patient a “cord blood stem cell transplant” to cure their disease. It can provide a cure for some blood cancer patients including Leukaemia and Lymphoma as well as other blood disorders and immunodeficiencies.  Find out more about how your cells cure cancer.

What's involved?

A questionnaire needs to be filled in and a blood test is taken. At the baby's delivery when the cord blood has been collected there is no other action required by the mother.  After a period of 6 months the mother usually takes another blood test as a second screen of diseases. Once complete it will be added onto the Australian Cord Blood Registry to be searched for a patient in need.  

cord blood

How is it collected?

Once the baby has been born (congratulations!), the trained staff will collect the stem cells from the umbilical cord when the cord has been clamped and cut. They ensure enough cells are collected to then be stored and made searchable for future use. 

Is there any pain involved or any risks to the mother or baby?

No, there is no pain, discomfort or any risks for the mother or baby. The stem cells are taken after the cord has been clamped and cut. There are no interferences during the delivery process. 

Is there a cost?

There is no cost to donate cord blood. 

Did you know?

  • Unfortunately most of the time these precious cord bloods are simply thrown away and discarded.
  • Not all hospitals can offer the service so you are best to check with your Doctor if it is possible.
  • Sometimes the timing of the birth may play a role on whether or not cord blood can be collected, for example if the baby is born at 3am on a Saturday morning there may not be trained staff available so the stem cells cannot be collected.
  • Cord blood stem cells also need to be matched although don't require as much matching as adult bone marrow. They can be donated onto a “cord blood registry” in each individual country in the same way as adult bone marrow. The databases are interconnected so they can be searched worldwide.
  • Out of approximately 25,000 cord blood units that are donated on the Australian Cord Blood Registry, about 100 are used for transplants each year.
  • 58.82% of cord blood units on the Australian Cord Blood Registry are of North Caucasian background, the rest are split up into tiny percentages of the different ethnicities.

For more information visit Australian Bone Marrow Donor registry and Cord Blood


"I hope to meet my donors one day so they can see in person the wonderful gift of life they have given me, and I want to meet the young boy whose blood now flows through my veins."
- Pamela, cancer survivor