Frequently Asked Questions
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Coronavirus (COVID-19) & Cord Blood & Tissue Banking
The coronavirus (COVID-19) is changing how we live our daily lives. We understand that beyond focusing on lifestyle changes to keep your family safe, your focus may be on the impact of COVID-19 on your pregnancy and ability to bank your newborn’s stem cells. Feel confident in knowing that ViaCord is doing everything possible to maintain business as usual.
During our twenty-five plus years of experience, we’ve navigated through unexpected events and uncertain times like this, with our customers always being the number one priority. During this time, we will strive to provide you with the most up-to-date and relevant information as it relates to banking your newborn's stem cells. Here are some important things to know:
What is ViaCord doing?
We’re working closely with hospitals, our courier team, and medical experts to ensure we’re following recommended guidelines and best practices. In addition, we’re continuously monitoring information being provided leading organizations like the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB), Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure we have the most recent and relevant information on hand.
ViaCord’s parent company, PerkinElmer, Inc., recently announced Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for PerkinElmer’s New Coronavirus RT-PCR test. It’s available to certified clinical laboratories in over 30 countries worldwide. In challenging times like this, we’re especially proud to be a part of PerkinElmer, Inc. and its mission.
Can I still collect my baby’s stem cells?
Yes! According to the American College Of Gynecology (ACOG) on 3/23/20, “Respiratory diseases are typically not transmitted by the transfer of human cells. Currently, there are no reported cases of transmission of COVID-19 by blood products (FDA); therefore, umbilical cord blood banking can continue to be managed according to clinical guidance.”
Will ViaCord still pick up my collection kit in my hospital room?
Hospital policies are changing daily. Many hospitals are now requesting that couriers pick up ViaCord Collection Kits in the lobby, rather than going to your room to retrieve it. We ask that you plan for this scenario, and that your partner help facilitate this request. Please also ensure that we have a cell phone number so we can help the hand-off go as smoothly as possible. ViaCord will coordinate with you and your hospital to get your baby’s cells to our Lab.
Is ViaCord’s Processing and Storage Laboratory Impacted by COVID-19?
ViaCord’s processing laboratory remains fully operational. Our specially trained lab technicians work round-the-clock to process and store cord blood and cord tissue stem cells as soon as they arrive at our doors. ViaCord processes every unit in a Class 10,000 cleanroom, which is designed to prevent airborne contamination. Our lab is FDA registered, CLIA certified, AABB (American Association of Blood Banks) Accredited for processing and storing newborn stem cells from both cord blood and cord tissue, and we follow best practices and guidelines provided by the AABB, FDA, and CLIA.
Is ViaCord financially sound during this turbulent economic time?
ViaCord’s parent company, PerkinElmer, Inc., was established in 1937 and has grown into a $2 billion global healthcare company. ViaCord has over 25 years of experience in cord banking and we are uniquely positioned to endure in the long-term.
What if I can’t make my payments?
We understand that many people are dealing with a sudden transition in their work and home lives. If you are experiencing financial difficulties, please contact our Accounts Receivable team at 800-991-2483. We are here to work with you. We are here to help when help is needed.
What is cord blood?
Cord blood, or umbilical cord blood, is the blood remaining in your child's umbilical cord following birth. It is a rich, non-controversial source of stem cells that can only be collected at the time of birth.
How is Cord Blood Used?
Umbilical cord blood, or cord blood, is currently being used in two areas of medicine: transplant medicine and regenerative medicine research. In transplant medicine, cord blood is used as the source of stem cells that can be used to help rebuild a new, healthy blood and immune system in a patient. In regenerative medicine research, cord blood is used in a different way. Instead of rebuilding a blood and immune system, the cells in cord blood are being used to stimulate the body’s own repair system to potentially regenerate or facilitate the repair of cells damaged by disease, genetics, or injury.
What is Cord Blood Used For?
Cord blood has a long history of proven use in transplant medicine. Today there are nearly 80-life altering conditions that can use cord blood stem cells in treatment including, certain cancers, blood disorders, immune disorders, bone marrow failure syndromes, metabolic disorders, and more. Cord blood is also being used in regenerative medicine research for conditions like autism, cerebral palsy, cardiac, brain injury and acquired hearing loss.
How and when is cord blood collected?
Whether you have a vaginal birth or a c-section, the process of collecting your newborn baby’s stem cells is a safe, painless procedure that won’t disrupt you, your baby, or your birth plan. After your baby is born, your baby’s umbilical cord is clamped and cut. Your medical professional will insert the provided collection needle into the cord to collect the remaining blood (if cord blood isn’t collected, it’s generally discarded as medical waste.) If you’ve decided to bank your baby’s cord tissue, the umbilical cord will be cleaned and placed in a special storage cup. From start to finish, the cord blood collection process takes about five minutes. The cord blood collection process also involves collecting maternal blood for testing. Tubes and labels for the required maternal blood draw are provided in the ViaCord collection kit.
What does your cord blood banking service include?
When you choose ViaCord you benefit from both high-quality customer service and leading-edge science. Our comprehensive service includes 24-hour on-call staff, a medical courier service to pick up and transport your collection kit to our lab, an FDA-approved cord blood collection bag, and state-of-the-art processing and storage.
Why is a maternal blood sample required?
Regulations require infectious disease testing to be performed on a sample of maternal blood. Treating physicians require the results of this test when considering your child’s cord blood for use in treatment or research.
Can I delay clamping the cord and still bank cord blood?
Yes. The timing of umbilical cord clamping is a personal decision that should be discussed with your OB or midwife. The process of cord blood collection begins immediately after the cord is clamped and cut – whenever that may be. Talk to your doctor or midwife and be sure to collect as much cord blood as you can after clamping. Also, you may want to consider cord tissue collection as a separate or additional option. For more details, read our delayed cord clamping blog post.
What does your service include?
When you choose ViaCord you benefit from both high-quality customer service and leading-edge science. Our comprehensive service includes 24-hour on-call staff, a medical courier service to pick up and transport your collection kit to our lab, an FDA-approved cord blood collection bag, and state-of-the-art processing and storage. Learn more about ViaCord's comprehensive service.
Is your collection bag FDA-approved?
ViaCord uses the only Heparin-Free, FDA-approved cord blood collection bag. Our collection bag is designed to maximize collection volume and minimize contamination. Ultimately, this promotes a high quality of collected stem cells for our customers.
How does a c-section affect collection?
The collection process proceeds essentially the same way with a cesarean section as it would in natural birth. ViaCord provides an FDA-approved, pre-loaded cord blood collection bag for use in sterile C-sections.
Is there any risk to my child or myself?
There is no risk to mother or baby during the cord blood collection process. The process of collecting your newborn baby’s umbilical cord stem cells is a safe, painless procedure that won’t disrupt you, your baby, or your birth plan.
Can I bank if I live outside the U.S.?
It’s your delivery location that matters. We can process collections for deliveries that take place within the United States and Puerto Rico regardless of residency. An additional $450 shipping charge is added to collections that take place in Puerto Rico.
How long will the cells remain viable in the kit after collection?
The cells in your cord blood sample should be processed and cryogenically preserved within 48 hours. That’s why it is important to contact the medical courier as soon as possible after collection to arrange for delivery.
Can I donate my child’s cord blood to ViaCord?
No. However, the National Institutes of Health has committed $30 million to establish three national public donation banks. Patients who deliver babies at these specific hospitals may donate their children's cord blood to the public bank for use by any individual who needs a stem cell transplant. These banks are an important supplement to the National Marrow Donor Program since many families cannot find a match within the family or do not have their cord blood privately banked. However, those who donate their cord blood to a public bank are not guaranteed that it will be available if it is ever needed by their family. Parents should also be aware that approximately 70% of stem cells donated to the public banking system are discarded prior to storage.10
Newborn Digestive Health
What Information Does ViaCord’s Newborn Digestive Health (Celiac Disease + Lactose Intolerance Risk Screen) Provide?
Celiac Risk Screen will provide either a positive (+) or negative (-) result. A positive (+) result means the child has a risk factor for developing celiac disease. It doesn’t mean the child will have celiac disease and the chance of developing celiac disease is still low. A negative (-) result means the child does not carry the genes for celiac disease. The child cannot develop celiac disease or pass it on to their child.
Lactose Intolerance Risk Screen will provide a risk result of “Increased”, “Average” or “Low”. A result of “Increased” means the child has genetic variants indicative of an increased risk for developing lactose intolerance. A result of “Average” means the child has genetic variants indicative of an average risk for lactose intolerance. A result of “Low” means the child has genetic variants indicative of a low risk for lactose intolerance.
Is ViaCord’s Newborn Digestive Health Available To All ViaCord Customers?
Newborn Digestive Health is available to all families enrolling in the ViaCord Service except when the collection of the cord blood is done in the State of New York.
Cord Blood Common Misconceptions
Cord blood banking only makes sense for families with a history of cancer.
Cord blood stem cells are used today in the treatment of certain cancers. However, they’re also used in the treatment of bone marrow failure syndromes, blood disorders, metabolic disorders, and immunodeficiencies. And there are clinical trials studying their impact on disorders like Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, heart disease, and spinal cord injury. 29,104,86,87,85,75
Cord blood can’t be used for the child it was collected from – only a sibling.
A quick review of our transplant list will show this is in fact, false. See the column titled “Donor Relationship” which indicates when it’s used for a sibling or oneself. With current treatments, cord blood is primarily used for siblings. Conversely for emerging uses, to date, all have been used on the child it was collected from.
I banked cord blood for one child, so I don’t need to bank for my other children.
The condition being treated is key to determining when and how cord blood can be used. Once a doctor confirms a cord blood transplant is needed, some conditions will require a sibling's others will require one’s own. Take a look at our cord blood use summary here and the column titled “Donor Relationship.” This column indicates when cord blood is was used for a sibling or by oneself.
Stored cord blood has a limited shelf life.
To date, there is no evidence that cord blood will ever expire.40 The most comprehensive research on this topic comes from Dr. Hal Broxmeyer, a pioneering cord blood scientist and renowned microbiologist and immunologist, who has studied cord blood for more than two decades. His team has proven that cord blood cells can be effective in treatment after being cryogenically stored for 25 years.
Banking cord blood takes away beneficial blood away from the baby at delivery.
Here is what’s important to know; delayed cord blood clamping and cord blood banking are not mutually exclusive activities. You can do both. Cord blood collection begins immediately after the cord is clamped and cut --whenever that may be. Timing is determined by you and your OB or midwife. If you do delay clamping, be sure to collect as much of the remaining cord blood as possible. At ViaCord if a cord blood sample doesn’t reach a minimum threshold, you’ll be notified and you can decide to continue storing or not. Another option to consider is cord tissue collection which includes stem cells extracted from the actual cord tissue (different from cord blood). For more details, read our delayed cord clamping blog post.
Cord blood isn’t used in medical treatments today.
Cord blood has been used in transplant medicine for nearly 30 years and can be used in the treatment of nearly 80 different diseases today.1 Over the last few years, cord blood use has expanded beyond transplant medicine into clinical research trials for conditions like autism and brain injuries.
What are cord tissue stem cells?
Many expectant parents today are familiar with cord blood banking – the collection and cryopreservation of stem cells extracted from the umbilical cord blood at birth. ViaCord also offers parents the opportunity to extract and cryopreserve the stem cells found in the umbilical cord tissue including the perivascular regions.12 Umbilical cord tissue is an additional source and an abundant source of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are expected to play a critical role in the treatment of disease and are being studied in great detail for their regenerative properties in cartilage, muscle, and nerve cells.
How is the umbilical cord tissue collected and does it hurt?
As with cord blood, the collection process is easy and painless. First, your baby’s umbilical cord is clamped and cut, and the cord blood is collected. Your healthcare professional will then collect as much of the umbilical cord tissue as possible and place it into the sterile, protective cup provided in your ViaCord collection kit.
What diseases are being treated with stem cells (MSCs) found in cord tissue?
Currently, there have been no medical treatments in humans using MSCs. All research using cord tissue stem cells is in pre-clinical studies, and there are no guarantees that therapies will be developed in the future.
What is the process for storing cord tissue?
The same freezing process is used for both cord blood stem cells and cord tissue stem cells. What's unique is at ViaCord we extract the stem cells, prior to cryopreservation. This extra step to extract the cells first provides families with a treatment-ready source of stem cells if they are ever needed.
Processing & Storage
How does cord blood get from my delivery room to your processing lab?
After your baby's cord blood is collected, simply call ViaCord's customer service center at 800-998-4226 to review the packaging and labeling details. This important step ensures the integrity and identity of the cord blood unit prior to transport. ViaCord will arrange for a medical courier to pick the unit up from your hospital bedside and facilitate transportation to the ViaCord Processing Laboratory. Our state-of-the-art processing and cryopreservation facility is open seven days a week, weekends, and holidays. We will contact you by phone, email and text message to let you know that your baby's cord blood has arrived safely.
What is the process once the collection arrives at the lab?
Upon arrival of your baby's cord blood collection, our lab will conduct tests to provide an assessment of the total volume collected and the concentration of stem cells, as well as check for bacterial and fungal contamination. In addition, the mother's blood samples will be tested for infectious diseases. After testing, your baby's cord blood unit is cryopreserved and stored at ≤ -170º Celsius.
How many collections have you banked?
To date, ViaCord has banked more than 500,000 stem cell units.
How many families have used their cord blood?
To date over 500 families have used their cord blood in a transplant or regenerative medicine research. Click here to see a detailed list.
What do I do if I need to use my baby's stored cord blood?
This is a medical decision that needs to be made by the patient’s physician. The physician will determine if using your stored stem cells is a viable option. Learn more here.
How can I find out what payment plan I signed up for?
To confirm your payment plan selection, just call our finance department at 800-991-2483 or refer to your welcome letter.
When will I be charged?
There is no payment due until the time of delivery. Annual storage fees are due each year during the month of your child's birthday.
Will I receive an invoice when payments are due or will my credit card simply be charged?
Your credit card will be charged automatically according to the payment plan you selected at the time of enrollment. A $150 fee will be charged if service is discontinued prior to delivery. Please be aware some OBs charge a fee to collect cord blood. You should discuss this matter with your caregiver prior to delivery.
When is my annual storage fee due?
Your annual storage fee is due each year during the month of your child's birthday. If you have provided a credit card at the time of enrollment, ViaCord will automatically charge your annual fee to the card we have on file. You will also receive a notification prior to billing so you may plan ahead or take advantage of one of our money-saving prepaid storage plans.
Can I prepay the annual storage fees?
Yes, you can prepay for 20 or 25 years of storage. This is a great option for people who appreciate the savings value, as well as the convenience of not having to think about annual payments. Simply call us at 800-991-2483 and a representative will help you start saving today. If you’re outside the United States, please call 617-914-3400.
Is there a cost to retrieve my baby's stem cells?
ViaCord arranges for the preparation and shipment of the cord blood unit according to industry standards. You will be charged for all preparation and shipment expenses; however, in most cases, these expenses will be reimbursed by your insurance company.
Is there an additional shipping fee for collections that take place in Puerto Rico?
Yes, an additional $450 shipping charge is added to collections that take place in Puerto Rico.
Will I be charged a fee by my healthcare provider for the collection?
Some caregivers will charge a fee for the collection — but it is at their discretion. You should discuss this matter with your caregiver prior to delivery.
What is Microbial Testing?
After the stem cells are collected, they are sent to the ViaCord lab for testing and processing. One of the tests we are required to complete is testing for the presence of microbes (i.e. bacteria, fungi). We perform this testing to provide your healthcare provider with complete information about your newborn stem cells in case you ever need to use your unit.
Why did my child's stem cell unit test positive for microbials?
During the birth process, the umbilical cord can come into contact with microbes that are naturally occurring within and around the body. Although rare, even when all precautions are taken during the stem cell collection, there is always a risk of bacteria making its way into the stem cell collection. Regardless of microbial testing results, ViaCord will store the newborn stem cells.
Can I still use my child's stem cells for transplant?
Units with a positive microbial result may still be used in standard clinical practice for transplantation therapies with urgent medical need. However, it may prevent a unit from being selected for use in a clinical trial or indication that is still considered experimental. The decision about the suitability of a cord blood unit for clinical use is made by the medical professional and the treatment protocol on a case by case basis.