Plasma donation has many benefits not only to the recipient but also to the donor. It is a life-saving procedure that is used to treat numerous rare, acute and chronic medical conditions. It provides the recipient with important antibodies that can help to fight diseases. While plasma donation is highly encouraged, it is not always safe for everyone, especially during pregnancy.
Pregnant women are not eligible to donate blood or plasma, but studies show that it is safe to do so before conceiving.
Women should wait around nine months, or however long their pregnancy lasted, to consider donating blood or plasma.
Breastfeeding mothers are eligible to donate blood or plasma once their baby has been weaned for over three months.
Blood and plasma donations are similar but different. During plasma donation, the blood is separated in a machine, filtering out the plasma into a bag and returning the remaining blood to the donor.
Donating umbilical cord blood or birth tissue is a life-saving act of generosity and is worth considering. Umbilical cord blood can also be saved by the family for potential future use.
Can pregnant women donate plasma?
No, pregnant women are not able to donate their plasma. There are few studies regarding the effects plasma donation has on pregnant women because it was quickly identified that their plasma could cause serious consequences to the recipient.
Humans have molecules that are attached to most of the cells in the body. These molecules are called human leukocyte antigens (HLA) and are essential for the immune system and how the body identifies and responds to foreign cells.
After conception, the fetus contains HLAs from both the mother and the father. Since the father’s HLAs are foreign to the mother’s body, she will develop antibodies against them. These antibodies are also found in plasma. If a person receives plasma from a pregnant woman with these antibodies in them, they risk a life-threatening complication called transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI).
What could happen from donating plasma during pregnancy?
Plasma donations during pregnancy are known to be too risky for the recipient of the plasma but may also negatively affect the mother and fetus. There is minimal research that studies the effects of blood or plasma donation during pregnancy, but being pregnant makes the person ineligible to donate.
Donating plasma can cause dehydration and also depletes iron levels. Pregnant women are already at risk for iron deficiency anemia and, therefore, could further deplete iron levels after donating plasma.
A fetus depends on the nutrients and blood supply in the mother's body to survive. Donating plasma could compromise the health of the fetus, and there is not enough evidence to determine the potential risks.
Blood donation vs. plasma donation
Donating blood is a similar process to donating plasma, but some differences include:
Whole blood donation
Whole blood donation removes the blood from the vein and goes directly into a blood bag. It is generally a quick and easy process.
Plasma donation removes the whole blood from the vein, enters a machine that separates the plasma from the other blood components then returns a portion of the blood to the donor. Since the process is slightly more complex, it can take over an hour to complete.
Plasma donation offers compensation, whereas blood donation does not.
Both blood and plasma donations have eligibility requirements. For the majority of donation clinics, you must be 18 years or older to donate plasma and 16 years or older to donate blood, and both require a weight minimum of 110 lbs. Pregnant women are not eligible to donate blood or plasma.
Can plasma be donated before pregnancy?
Donation is not recommended during pregnancy, but can you donate plasma if you are trying to get pregnant? Research has shown that repeated blood donations before becoming pregnant did not increase the risk of harmful maternal or fetal outcomes and are considered safe. However, if a woman is trying to get pregnant and has missed a period, plasma donation should be delayed until pregnancy can be confirmed.
Can plasma be donated after pregnancy?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends delaying donation for the same amount of months as the length of the pregnancy. If a person was pregnant for nine months, they should wait for nine months before donating again. The WHO also advises breastfeeding women to wait until three months after the baby has been weaned to donate.
What else can be donated?
Although pregnancy limits blood donation choices, there are still ways you can contribute to helping others. After the baby is born, umbilical cord blood or birth tissue donation can help save lives. The nutrients and stem cells found in cord blood, amniotic fluid, and the placenta can treat numerous diseases and medical conditions.
Umbilical cord blood donation
Umbilical cord blood contains stem cells that can be used to treat blood or genetic disorders, cancer, immunodeficiencies, metabolic deficiencies, and even osteoporosis. There are over 80 different diseases that can be treated by umbilical cord blood donation.
After the baby is born and the cord is clamped and cut, the doctor or midwife will draw blood from the clamped cord and place it into a collection bag. The cord blood can be donated to a local cord blood bank, or the family can store the cord blood in a bank for potential future use.
After delivery, the placenta is usually thrown away as medical waste. However, the tissues of the placenta are full of nutrients and cells that promote healing and can be used to treat burns and wounds. It also contains stem cells used to treat life-threatening diseases. Patients undergoing eye or spinal surgery could also benefit.
Amniotic fluid donation
During a cesarean section, the amniotic fluid can be harvested and donated for use in stem cell therapy to help treat conditions like spina bifida, congenital heart defects, and lung regeneration. Amniotic fluid is usually lost during vaginal deliveries, so the option to donate is more likely when there is a scheduled c-section.