A Guide to Plasma Donation and Pregnancy
Plasma is a vital component of blood that contains proteins, electrolytes, and antibodies that help regulate various functions in the body. Plasma donation is a process that involves separating plasma from other blood cells and collecting it for medical purposes. Plasma can be used to treat patients with bleeding disorders, immune deficiencies, burns, shock, and trauma.
We will also cover the risks of donating plasma while pregnant, when you can resume donating plasma after pregnancy, and some other ways you can support your community through donation. Read on to learn more about plasma donation and pregnancy.
Why You Cannot Donate Plasma While Pregnant?
The main reason why you cannot donate plasma while pregnant is because it may pose a serious risk to the recipient of your plasma. This risk is called transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI).
TRALI is a rare but potentially fatal complication that occurs when the recipient's immune system reacts to certain antibodies in the donor's plasma. These antibodies are called human leukocyte antigens (HLA), which are proteins that help the body recognize its own cells from foreign cells.
During pregnancy, your body produces HLA antibodies to prevent your immune system from attacking your baby's cells, which have different genetic information from yours. These antibodies cross the placenta and enter your bloodstream, where they can remain for months or even years after pregnancy.
If you donate plasma that contains HLA antibodies, they may trigger an inflammatory response in the recipient's lungs, causing fluid buildup, breathing difficulties, low blood pressure, and organ failure. TRALI can occur within minutes or hours of receiving a plasma transfusion and can be fatal if not treated promptly.
According to the American Red Cross, TRALI is the leading cause of death from blood transfusions in the United States. To reduce the risk of TRALI, most plasma donation centers only accept plasma from male donors or female donors who have never been pregnant.
Another reason why you cannot donate plasma while pregnant is because there is not enough research on how it may affect your health and your baby's health. Donating plasma involves removing a large amount of fluid from your body, which may cause dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and anemia. These conditions can have negative effects on your blood pressure, heart function, kidney function, and oxygen delivery to your baby.
Additionally, donating plasma may expose you to infections, allergic reactions, bruising, bleeding, and fainting. These complications are rare but possible and may require medical attention.
Therefore, to protect yourself and your baby from potential harm, you should avoid donating plasma while pregnant.
Risks of Donating Plasma While Pregnant
As we mentioned above, donating plasma while pregnant may pose serious risks to both you and the recipient of your plasma. Here are some of the possible risks:
- TRALI: This is the most severe risk of donating plasma while pregnant. It can cause life-threatening lung damage and organ failure in the recipient of your plasma.
- Dehydration: Donating plasma removes about 800 milliliters (ml) of fluid from your body, which is equivalent to about three cups of water. This can cause dehydration symptoms such as thirst, dry mouth, headache, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea.
- Electrolyte imbalance: Plasma contains electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium that help regulate various functions in the body. Losing too much plasma can cause electrolyte imbalance symptoms such as muscle cramps, weakness, irregular heartbeat, confusion, and seizures.
- Anemia: Plasma also contains red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. Losing too much plasma can cause anemia symptoms such as pale skin,
- Low blood pressure: Donating plasma can lower your blood pressure temporarily due to fluid loss. This can cause symptoms such as lightheadedness,fainting,blurred vision,and chest pain.
- Infection: Donating plasma involves inserting a needle into your arm to draw blood. This can introduce bacteria or viruses into your bloodstream if the needle or equipment is not sterile. This can cause symptoms such as fever,chills,rash,and swelling.
- Allergic reaction: Donating plasma may expose you to substances that you are allergic to such as antiseptics,disinfectants,or latex gloves. This can cause symptoms such as itching,hives,wheezing,and difficulty breathing.
- Bruising: Donating plasma may cause bruising around the needle site due to bleeding under the skin. This can cause pain,discoloration,and swelling.
- Bleeding: Donating plasma may cause bleeding from the needle site or internally if you have a bleeding disorder or take blood thinners. This can cause symptoms such as prolonged bleeding,blood in urine or stool,and shock.
When Can You Resume Donating Plasma After Pregnancy?
If you are interested in donating plasma after pregnancy, you will need to wait for a certain period of time before you can do so. The exact duration depends on the plasma donation center's policies and your individual health status.
Generally, most plasma donation centers require you to wait at least six weeks after giving birth before you can donate plasma. This is to allow your body to recover from the physical and hormonal changes of pregnancy and childbirth.
However, some plasma donation centers may require you to wait longer, especially if you have been pregnant more than once or have tested positive for HLA antibodies. In some cases, you may not be able to donate plasma at all if you have a high level of HLA antibodies in your blood.
Therefore, it is important to check with the plasma donation center near you about their eligibility criteria and screening tests before you plan to donate plasma after pregnancy.
Pregnancy Safe Alternatives
If you cannot donate plasma while pregnant or after pregnancy, there are still other ways you can support your community through donation. Here are some alternatives that are safe and beneficial for pregnant people:
- Donateblood: Blood donation is different from plasma donation in that it involves collecting whole blood instead of separating the plasma from it. Blood donation is safe for most pregnant people as long as they meet the general eligibility requirements such as being healthy,
having a normal hemoglobin level,and weighing at least 110 pounds. Blood donation can help save lives of people who need blood transfusions due to trauma,surgery,cancer,or other conditions.
- Donate cord blood: Cord blood is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta after delivery. Cord blood contains stem cells that can be used to treat various diseases such as leukemia,lymphoma,sickle cell anemia,and immune disorders. Cord blood donation is safe and painless for both you and your baby as it does not interfere with the delivery process. Cord blood donation can help save lives of people who need stem cell transplants and do not have a matching donor.
- Donate breast milk: Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for babies, especially premature or sick ones. Breast milk contains antibodies, enzymes, hormones, and other substances that help protect babies from infections and diseases. Breast milk donation is safe and easy for lactating mothers who have excess milk supply and meet the health and lifestyle criteria. Breast milk donation can help feed babies who cannot receive their own mother's milk due to medical or social reasons.
Plasma donation is a valuable service that can help many people in need of plasma transfusions. However, pregnant people cannot donate plasma due to the risk of TRALI and other potential complications for themselves and their babies.
If you want to donate plasma, you will need to wait until after pregnancy and check with the plasma donation center about their eligibility requirements. Alternatively, you can consider other forms of donation such as blood, cord blood, or breast milk that are safe and beneficial for pregnant people.
We hope this article has answered your questions about plasma donation and pregnancy. If you have any further questions or concerns, please consult your doctor or the plasma donation center near you.