I have to thank Miche over at Coordinated Chaos for sharing this post about cord blood banking. A lot of us have heard about cord blood banking, but what a lot of us may not realize is that there are two different types of banking: one is to bank it for your own family (for which you pay a pretty penny, usually around $2000 to start plus annual storage fees) and the other is to donate it to science. Cord blood contains embryonic stem cells and is therefore valuable for research even if you have no need or desire to store it for yourself. It also can be used in transfusions, and is somewhat comparable to bone marrow in that way--except that it's not painful to extract the way bone marrow is. And, of course, donation is free.
When I was expecting Bear I asked my OB about donation and he didn't know anything about it. I did a little poking around online but was unable to find anything, and admittedly I did not pursue it at much length. As it turned out, because the cord was around his neck so tightly, we had to cut it in the middle (to finish getting him out) and then cut it again closer to his navel. So I think it wouldn't have been possible to save or donate it anyway. But I still think it's an issue worth considering!!
Here are a few links for further reading (Thanks to Miche for sharing them first!):
Some basic information about cord blood banking (both personal banking or donation), with lots of links to additional information
How to donate cord blood--including information about who is eligible, where you can donate, and how the process works.
Frequently Asked Questions--including what is done with the cord blood, privacy issues, and what you can do if your hospital isn't currently set up for donations.
CordBloodRights--a site encouraging action for legislation to make saving/donating cord blood the default (instead of just throwing it away which is what usually happens unless you specifically request that it be saved). (This site is run by Cord Blood Registry, so it's not truly unbiased, but it does have some good information.)
There are those who prefer to leave the cord uncut until it has stopped pulsing (which means that all the blood has drained into the baby), or even those who do a "lotus birth" (which means that they don't cut the cord at all, but merely pack the placenta in herbs and then carry it around with the baby until the cord detaches naturally). If you believe in those things, then obviously cord blood banking isn't something that's going to work for you. However, for most standard births--particularly in hospitals--the cord is cut within minutes or seconds of birth, and there is plenty of blood still in the cord. If this is your plan for birth, then please take the time to check out some of these links and consider making a donation that could literally save lives!