Instead of discarding your baby’s umbilical cord or preserving it to be used as household items or jewellery (yes, that’s a thing), new mums could donate it to save someone’s life.
Blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan is asking people to donate the blood from their baby’s cord and their placenta to be used in vital stem cell transplantations.
Women are being reassured by the charity that the donation is “totally risk-free and won’t interfere with your delivery, afterbirth or birth plan in the slightest”.
Henny Braund, chief executive of Anthony Nolan, explained: “Cord blood stem cells, which are collected after a woman gives birth, are vital in stem cell transplantation.
“Currently only 60% of patients can find the best possible match from a stranger, this drops dramatically to 20% for patients from black, Asian or minority ethnic heritage.
“Cord blood is an important way of closing the gap for patients in need.”
The charity collects cord blood at four hospitals in London, Manchester, and Leicester, and Braund said these are hospitals where lots of babies are born every year, and where the local community is ethnically diverse.
Unlike with stem cells donated by adults, cord blood donors and recipients don’t need to be an exact match, as the stem cells in cord blood aren’t so mature and can develop to suit their recipient.
For women interested in donating their umbilical cord, the process is quite simple.
After a woman has given birth and delivered the placenta, an Anthony Nolan cord collector takes the cord and placenta to a separate room and extracts the blood.
Braund explained: “If the cord contains enough stem cells for a transplant it will be banked in our Cell Therapy Centre where it’ll be ready for a patient in need.
“If it has a lower number of cells, then we may use it in our research to find ways to make transplants more successful. Either way, giving your cord can have a lifesaving effect.”
Giving your cord can have a lifesaving effect." Henny Braund, chief executive of Anthony Nolan
Hayley Stuart gave birth to her daughter Abigail in 2015 and decided to donate her cord blood.
Speaking about her decision, she explained: “I can’t imagine how hard it is being told your child has blood cancer, especially if there’s no match. And that’s why I donated my cord blood.
“The whole process is so easy, and if one sick little boy or girl could be helped from it, how amazing would that be?
“I completed a form, signed it and agreed to give the cord blood. The rest was all taken care of by the Anthony Nolan team. They even came to the hospital to say thank you after Abigail was born.”
Mums-to-be can speak to their midwife about Anthony Nolan cord donation or visit the Anthony Nolan website, www.anthonynolan.org/cord to register interest.
Anthony Nolan currently collects cord blood in the following four hospitals:
Leicester General Hospital
Leicester Royal Infirmary
King’s College Hospital, London
Saint Mary’s, Manchester.