Can You Donate Plasma While Pregnant & Is It Safe?

Donating Plasma While Pregnant – Is It Safe?

Critical patients suffering from shock, trauma, burns, and other emergencies might need blood for treatment. Similarly, some treatments require plasma. And it always feels good to help others by donating either blood or plasma. It could be a regular practice for some people to donate. But can you donate plasma while pregnant?
If you have turned pregnant and wondering if you can still donate, it’s, unfortunately, a NO!

Pregnant women should not donate plasma, and you should wait for at least six weeks to start donating again. But even after six weeks, it is better to consult a doctor regarding the same. There are multitudes of risks involved, which we’ll be discussing in the upcoming sections. So, let us know about the science behind plasma donation and what happens if you donate plasma while pregnant!

What Is Plasma Donation? 

Plasma is usually known as the forgotten part of blood. Blood comprises three components, namely red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. The yellow fluid called plasma carries these blood components in the whole body. So, this way, plasma is the largest part of your body. To be precise, it is 55% of your body. It also transports essential salts, enzymes, nutrients, hormones, and water in the complete body. The cellular waste product is also disposed of by the plasma. So now you know how important plasma is to your body!

Plasma donation involves donating that yellow colour liquid. First, the blood is drawn out of the donor. Then the blood is passed through a machine that separates and collects the plasma. The plasma donation process can be time-consuming as the left-out blood cells are returned to the donor. AB group plasmas have huge demand. It is because AB plasmas are universal ones. These can be transfused to any blood type. 

Who Is Eligible to Donate Plasma? 

The following points should hold in your case if you want to donate plasma:

  • You should be at least 18 years old. 
  • Must clear a medical examination.
  • You should at least be weighing 50kg or 110 pounds.
  • You should clear an extensive medical history examination.
  • You should not have undergone a tattoo or piercings in the last 4 months.
  • If you have recently recovered from COVID-19, you should donate after 14 days of symptom clearance.

Blood Donation Vs. Plasma Donation 

The process for blood and plasma donation is the same. However, in plasma donation, blood is usually returned to the donor. Also, the needle used for blood donation is generally smaller in size. Another difference is that a machine is used to separate blood and plasma in plasma donation, while blood donation does not involve any machine.

Is It Okay to Donate Plasma in Pregnancy? 

Now the question remains, can pregnant women donate plasma? The answer to the question is no. Pregnant women are recommended not to donate plasma since there are chances of complications in the receiver’s body. There is a protein called Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA) in your body. These are attached to your cells to let the body know that these particular cells belong to your body. Additionally, as per Canadian Family Physician, donating blood can increase the risk of anaemia and the health of the growing foetus.

When pregnant, the baby gets half the HLAs from the sperm and another half from the egg. Since the woman’s body does not know the HLAs from the father, it generates antibodies against it. In such a scenario, when the pregnant lady donates plasma carrying the HLA antibodies, a transfusion reaction might occur in the recipient’s body. This reaction is called transfusion-related acute lung injury or TRALI. It can even lead to death. As per a retrospective case-control study done on the pediatric population, it was concluded that maternal blood should be avoided, especially in the pediatric population.

Can Donating Plasma Be Safe for the Baby?

Can Donating Plasma Be Safe for the Baby?

Plasma donation by pregnant ladies has been completely stopped owing to some TRALI cases reported in the past. However, there is not much research on whether or not plasma donation is safe for the baby. 

But if we think logically, there are already various physiological changes happening in the body when a woman becomes pregnant. A little human grows inside the body that needs vital nutrients and minerals to grow. If you take out plasma, you take away nutrition too. Also, a pregnant woman needs to have enough blood in her body for both mother and child. It is also a stressful process, and stress is not good for both the mother and the child during pregnancy. 

Why Should You Not Donate Plasma During Pregnancy? 

As discussed above, it is not advisable to donate plasma during pregnancy. The plasma agency always asks a woman if she is pregnant before starting the plasma donation procedure. But sometimes, in early pregnancy, the mother does not know about being pregnant. So, several checks are carried out on your blood to determine if you are pregnant. According to plasma donation guidelines, plasma agencies cannot take plasma from a pregnant lady. 

There are ample reasons why donating plasma when pregnant is not safe. Each body has a protein called Human Leukocyte Antigens or HLA. These HLAs are unique to a body and are attached to each cell, making your body recognize that these cells belong to you. When a baby is conceived, they get half the HLAs from the father and half from the mother. Since the father’s HLAs are foreign to the mother’s body, it develops antibodies against them, which flow in the plasma. So, when this plasma with HLA antibodies is transfused, the receiver’s body may experience a shock. This shock is called a transfusion reaction and may even lead to death. This condition is called transfusion-related acute lung injury or TRALI. 

Additionally, plasma donation in pregnancy might not be safe for the mother and child. Since plasma is responsible for carrying essential nutrients to the child, donating plasma won’t be safe. Plasma helps in waste removal and is also required to carry blood. The blood demand during pregnancy is high and should be sufficiently present in the woman’s body to keep the system running appropriately.

Risks of Donating Plasma While Pregnant 

The major risks involved in plasma donation during pregnancy are already discussed in the sections above. Other side effects that might trigger while donating plasma if you are pregnant include:

1. Dizziness 

Plasma is the carrier of vital nutrients, minerals, and salts. These help the baby grow. Some of the nutrients are donated if you donate plasma in pregnancy. It may cause a void of nutrients for you and the child. It will further cause electrolyte imbalance and lead to dizziness and fainting, followed by fatigue.

2. Dehydration

Plasma is 90% water. So, the mother will most likely feel dehydrated post-donation. The child will get dehydrated, too, which can lead to developmental issues. 

3. Citrate Reaction 

Plasma is separated from the blood through a machine. Inside the machine, an anticoagulant is used to prevent the blood from clotting at the time of donation. Often, the machine retains this substance. When the plasma is separated and blood is pushed back into your body, there is a possibility that the anticoagulant substance gets into the bloodstream. This can cause temporary calcium loss and be risky for the expecting woman.

4. Bruising 

Certain expecting mothers may have blood disorders. A needle can puncture the vein and cause excessive blood loss in such women. This can also lead to bruises as the blood gets into soft tissues. Blood loss can be dangerous for pregnant women.

5. Miscarriage 

There are chances of miscarriage when you donate plasma during pregnancy. The amniotic fluid (which protects the baby) is made of plasma. If the plasma is taken out of amniotic fluid, it can pose a risk to the pregnancy.

When Can I Resume Donating Plasma After Pregnancy? 

The question is still under research; however, as per American Red Cross it is recommended to wait for at least 6 weeks after delivery to donate plasma. WHO recommends delaying the blood donation for the same number of months as the duration of pregnancy. As a precautionary measure, the plasma donation agency will do the necessary test on your plasma before transfusion. Until your tests continue detecting HLA antibodies, you cannot donate plasma.

It is also important to understand that you and your child still require the essential vitamins and minerals that plasma carries to support each other. Donating plasma won’t be a good idea post-delivery.

Also, some doctors suggest not to donate plasma when you are breastfeeding. Plasma donation affects milk production. Breast milk production is related to hydration, and plasma donation takes away water from your body. It would be best not to donate plasma as long as you feed your baby. 

Other Pregnancy Safe Alternatives 

If you have been a regular donor, it might feel sad not to donate. But there are always other ways to help people in need. The alternatives can be:

  • You can choose to donate your time. Try to volunteer at a plasma or blood donation centre.
  • Encourage, educate, and motivate eligible people around you for plasma donation.
  • If you are financially sound, you can donate funds that can help the needy.
  • You can also host a blood or plasma donation camp.

What Other Things Can You Donate After Pregnancy?

Don’t worry if pregnancy limits you from donating blood, you can still contribute to society’s greater good by placing donations of other kinds. After childbirth, you can consider donating umbilical cord blood, birth tissue, or amniotic fluid, all of which are rich in nutrients and valuable stem cells with the potential to treat various medical conditions. Let’s learn about these a bit more in detail.

1. Umbilical Cord Blood

Do you know that over 80 different diseases can benefit from umbilical cord blood donation? Yes, umbilical cord blood, in particular, contains stem cells that can be effectively used to address a wide range of medical conditions, including blood disorders, cancer, immunodeficiencies, and more. After the baby’s birth, the cord is clamped and cut, and the collected cord blood can be donated to a local cord blood bank or stored for potential future use.

2. Placenta

The placenta, often discarded as medical waste, holds tissues loaded with nutrients and cells that promote healing. It also contains stem cells that can be used to treat burns, wounds, and life-threatening diseases. 

3. Amniotic Fluid

Amniotic fluid, typically lost during vaginal deliveries, can be harvested and donated during a cesarean section to support stem cell therapy for conditions like spina bifida, congenital heart defects, and lung regeneration.

Consider these options to make a valuable contribution after pregnancy.

FAQ

1. Is It Safe to Donate Plasma Before Pregnancy?

Donating plasma while pregnant is advised, but you can donate it when you are trying to get pregnant. As per a 2019 study, donating blood more than once before pregnancy is safe and does not induce harmful maternal or fetal outcomes. Apparently, if you are trying to conceive and have missed your latest period, then donating plasma should be delayed until your pregnancy is confirmed.

Pregnancy causes many changes in the physiological aspects of your body. When you conceive, you take responsibility for delivering a healthy baby. And you can ensure the health of the child only if you refrain from plasma donation. Also, you should eat well, maintain good health, and remain stress-free. Not only you and your child, but your donated plasma can also cause major health risks to the receiver as well. So, for everyone’s good, it is advised that you take your doctor’s advice before getting involved in any donation while pregnant.

References/Resources:

1. Who can give blood; WHO; https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-blood-donor-day/2018/who-can-give-blood

2. Chassé. M, Tinmouth. A, Goldman. M, et al.; Evaluating the Clinical Effect of Female Blood Donors of Child-Bearing Age on Maternal and Neonatal Outcomes: A Cohort Study; Transfus Med Rev.; PubMed; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31882263/; April 2020

3. Donor Frequently Asked Questions; DonatingPlasma.org; https://www.donatingplasma.org/donation/donor-faq

4. Eligibility Criteria: Alphabetical; American Red Cross; https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/how-to-donate/eligibility-requirements/eligibility-criteria-alphabetical.html

5. Armstrong. K. L; Blood donation and anemia;

6. Dunbar. N, Cooke. M, Diab. M, Toy. P; Transfusion-related acute lung injury after transfusion of maternal blood: a case-control study; Spine (Phila Pa 1976).; PubMed Central; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2964398/; November 2010

Also Read:

High & Low Haemoglobin Levels in Pregnancy
CBC (Complete Blood Count) Test during Pregnancy
Pregnancy-Associated Plasma Protein-A (PAPP-A) Level

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