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The Dan Berger Cord Blood Program

In October 2007, the Magee-Womens Foundation announced the creation of the Dan Berger Cord Blood Program at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital. The program offers parents the option of preserving their baby’s umbilical cord blood for future health care needs or research.

What is cord blood?

After the birth of a baby, the blood remaining in a portion of the umbilical cord and placenta is called placental blood or umbilical cord blood, or simply “cord blood.” This extra blood is not needed by the baby.

All normal elements of blood–red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma–are contained in cord blood. It is also rich in hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cells, like those found in bone marrow. Cord blood can be used for transplantation instead of bone marrow because it does not have to match a patient’s tissue type as closely as bone marrow does.

Stem cells found in cord blood have been used to treat malignant hematological diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma.

Immediately after a baby’s birth, before the placenta has been delivered, cord blood is collected. The blood is taken from the cord only after it has been clamped and cut, so there is no risk to the baby or the mother.

In the past, umbilical cords and placental tissue were just discarded as medical waste. Now parents can choose to preserve this material for the potential benefit of their own family, members of the community, or the public in general.

Cord Blood Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Will collecting cord blood hurt my baby or me?
There is no risk to the mother or baby because blood is collected after the baby is born, after the cord is cut, and after the placenta has been delivered. There will be no change in the way mother and baby are cared for during labor and delivery or afterward.

What is the difference between donating cord blood and storing it for my family?
Public donations are free. The cord blood tissue type is recorded and stored in a public bank until needed. If you store your baby’s cord blood privately, there is an ongoing fee for storage, and only your family can use it. You also can donate it to Magee-Womens Research Institute for research, which is also free.

How good are my chances of saving my baby’s cord blood?
If you are healthy, and if you are delivering one baby (rather than two or more), your chances for collecting are higher than they might otherwise be. Ask your doctor about your particular case.

Are cord blood stem cells part of the stem cell debates that I hear about in the news?
No. Cord blood stem cells are free of political and ethical debate. Many states are introducing legislation to educate families about the options for their baby’s cord blood. To read about the United States government’s support and legislation, visit

If I donate to the public blood bank, will I have access to it if I need it?
The National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) is a national data base where any person needing a transplant can search for a compatible cord blood. Cord blood units are provided based on this need.

By donating your baby's cord blood to a public registry you consent to make it available to anyone at anytime in need of a transplant. There is no way to predict if your cord blood donation will be eligible for listing or if it would be available to you or a family member if a future need were to arise.

There is no guarantee of product availability.

Don't let your baby's cord blood go to waste

Magee's program is unique in that the hospital offers parents three options from which to choose: Parents can:

  • Donate to research to help mankind.
  • Donate to a public bank and help members in the community who may need the cells, and usually coordinate matching cord blood to patients through the
    National Marrow Donor Program; Magee is contracted with ITxM.
  • Save in one of three contracted private banks for your family, including
    ViaCord, CorCell, or Cord Blood Registry. These banks are for-profit
    organizations that charge fees to store cord blood for the exclusive use of the donor.

Magee wants you to be well-informed and able to make the best decision for you and your family. If you are interested in receiving more information about the Cord Blood Program, talk to your doctor or call program coordinator, Mary Wiegel at 412-209-7479 or by email.

Cord blood options

Do you need to know more about umbilical cord blood options? To help you make an educated decision about what to do with your baby’s cord blood, watch the video below.