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How to donate umbilical cord blood

A mother and child are shown in this

A mother and child are shown in this file photo. Credit: Fotolia

Q. Can you explain what's involved in donating my child-to-be's umbilical cord blood to a public registry?

A. Umbilical cord blood, or cord blood for short, can be powerful in saving people who need bone marrow transplants for diseases such as leukemia. If a family doesn't want to bank a newborn's cord blood for its own potential future use, which involves annual storage fees and a collection fee, it can donate the cord blood to the public registry available to others. Otherwise, the cord is thrown away as medical waste after the birth.

The New York Blood Center's National Cord Blood Program collects only from births at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, says Michael Zdanowski, director of operations.

However, the "Be the Match" National Marrow Donor Program has a wider network of participating hospitals, or can send parents a kit the hospital can use to save and deliver the blood remotely, says Mary Halet, director of recruitment and community development for Be the Match. Visit marrow.org/cord to see if you are eligible; for instance, women expecting twins aren't because each baby has a separate immune system, Halet says. You'll then be able to see a list of participating hospitals or how to get a remote kit. Moms-to-be also get answers to frequently asked questions.

There's no cost to donate, Halet and Zdanowski say. Donating cord blood can't be written off for a tax break, Halet says. "There isn't a real value we can attach to it," she says.

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