Can You Donate Plasma While Pregnant?

Can You Donate Plasma While Pregnant?

If you’re thinking of making a plasma donation, that’s awesome! But can you donate plasma while pregnant? We’ll take you through it here.
The need for plasma donations is very real — so, may we be the first to say, thank you for even considering making a contribution.

Plasma donations are used in life-saving procedures for a range of conditions.

That’s why donating plasma is often referred to as giving “the gift of life”.

But can you donate plasma while pregnant?

Unfortunately, you may have to wait a little before making your appointment.

We’ll take you through the details.

In this article: 📝

  • What is plasma?
  • Is it safe to donate plasma while pregnant?
  • What would happen if you donate plasma while pregnant?
  • How long after you have a baby can you donate plasma?

What is plasma?

Plasma is the bulk of what makes up your blood — comprising about 55% of it.

Think of it as your local transit system, carrying nutrients, proteins, and hormones to different parts of your body. And it helps with waste removal too.

So, as you can see, it’s a very necessary part of our bodies.

By donating plasma, you can help people who need lifesaving treatments for liver diseases, bleeding disorders, and various types of cancers.

The process of donating plasma involves having blood drawn from you via a needle that is inserted into a vein in your arm.

The plasma is then separated from the other parts of your blood, and your blood is then returned to you.

(Fun fact: when it’s separated from the rest of your blood, it’s actually light yellow, not deep red.)

Before any of this can be done, the collection center will need to check your eligibility.

And if you’re pregnant, you’ll have to hold onto your plasma for now.

Is it safe to donate plasma while pregnant?

The answer is, unfortunately: no.

According to the FDA, you are not eligible to give plasma while you are pregnant.

So why is this rule in place? And what happens if you donate plasma while pregnant? We’ll take you through it.

What would happen if you donate plasma while pregnant?

There is a chance that you could cause serious complications for the recipient of your plasma.

The reason for this has to do with proteins called Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA) that are found in most cells in your body.

These proteins play an important role in helping your immune system respond to outside invaders that it encounters.

Your baby has HLA too — half of which come from sperm, and half from your egg.

And here’s where things get tricky when it comes to plasma donation.

Sometimes, when we fall pregnant, our bodies take one look at the sperm’s HLA and are like “Where did these proteins come from?”

Seeing them as a foreign invader, they respond to them by creating antibodies against them.

While these antibodies won’t hurt us or our babies, they may seriously harm someone else if we pass them on to them.

If you give plasma that contains HLA antibodies, there’s a chance that these antibodies might spur a life-threatening condition called Transfusion-Related Acute Lung Injury (or TRALI).

This rare syndrome causes lung failure to occur shortly after a blood transfusion, and can be fatal. That’s why we have to be extra careful here.

As for how plasma donation might affect the health of you and your baby, well, that’s complicated.

While there’s no direct evidence that plasma donation might harm your baby, we do know that plasma is extra important when you’re pregnant.

You need that blood circulation to be working at its peak to keep this operation running.

That’s why your body increases its plasma volume by almost 50% when you’re pregnant.

It’s an all-hands-on-deck approach, as both your organs and the developing organs of your growing baby require a blood boost to function at their peak.

That means, you have full license to keep all the plasma to yourself (and your baby) for now.

Donating blood while pregnant is also a no-go because your body needs all the blood and iron it can get.

Anemia, a condition where you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry sufficient oxygen to your body’s tissue, is already more of a risk for when you’re pregnant.

It can leave you feeling extra fatigued and dizzy, and may affect your breathing and heart rate.

More severe cases of anemia can also lead to complications for your baby, possibly leading to preterm delivery and lower birth weight.

It may also put your baby at risk of developing anemia themselves.

So all in all, it’s best to steer clear for now.

How long after you have a baby can you donate plasma?

You’ll have to wait until your baby is six weeks old before you are eligible again.

And your blood will be screened for the presence of HLA antibodies before you are allowed to donate.

If you do test positive for them, they will be in your system for the rest of your life. (Don’t worry — they’re not dangerous for you.)

The presence of HLA antibodies means you won’t be able to donate plasma, but you will still be able to make an important contribution by donating whole blood or red cells.

When you are ready to start this journey, here’s the info to get you going.

All the best, mama!

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