What is umbilical cord blood banking

This page explains what umbilical cord blood is, how it is collected and what it can be used for.

What is umbilical cord blood?

Umbilical cord blood, often referred to as just ‘cord blood’ is blood found in the umbilical cord and placenta that can be collected at, or soon after the birth of a child.

Umbilical cord blood is a rich source of blood-forming stem cells. Through cord blood transplants, they can be used as treatment for a number of blood cancers, immune system deficiencies and other conditions.

How is it collected?

Collection of cord blood involves clamping and removing the cord and placenta as usual, then draining the blood from the umbilical cord and placenta.

Delayed umbilical cord clamping (not earlier than 1 minute after birth) is currently recommended by NICE and WHO to allow more blood to reach the baby and help prevent anaemia. Banks can still collect high quality units of cord blood following delayed clamping. However, it is important that the cord blood is drained as soon as possible following delayed clamping to maximise the potential volume.

To minimise the risk of contamination, it is important that the collection area is clean and fit for purpose. It is also important that the collector cleans the cord itself using correct aseptic technique.

To ensure the best quality collection, those collecting cord blood must be properly trained. Anyone collecting cord blood must act under the authority of an HTA licence.


Once collected, cord blood must be transported to a cord blood bank.

Time in transit should be kept to a minimum. Increased time in transit is related to increased cell death and can result in poor quality cord blood units. Cord blood should be placed into frozen storage as soon as possible and no later than 72 hours after collection.

Cord blood banks should ensure that cord blood remain within set temperature ranges to ensure its quality during transport. They should also use specific containers that have been demonstrated to maintain the appropriate temperatures and the integrity of the cord blood unit.

How is cord blood tested or screened?

There are mandatory testing and screening requirements for anyone who donated any kind of tissue or cells, including cord blood. As well as these, cord blood banks may have their own eligibility criteria.

What are my options for storage?

Cord blood may be stored in a public cord blood bank or a private cord blood bank.