Can I Donate Plasma While Pregnant?

person donating plasma

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Plasma donations, much like blood donations are crucial for patients receiving treatment for trauma, shock, burns, and more. If donating plasma before you became pregnant was a consistent way you helped others, chances are you're wondering if you can continue donating while expecting. Unfortunately, you'll have to suspend your plasma donations while pregnant.

"It is not recommended to donate plasma while pregnant. Most centers will not accept plasma from pregnant women due to the risks involved," says Rachel Adams, MD, a board-certified OBGYN with Metropolitan OB-GYN in Baltimore, Maryland. "Most centers also recommend waiting at least 6 weeks after pregnancy, if not more, prior to donating plasma."

Let's dive deeper into why plasma donation is best put on pause until after baby arrives.

Donating Plasma During Pregnancy

The reason why you should refrain from donating plasma during pregnancy is two-fold. Dr. Adams explains that there are proteins in the body called Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA) which are markers attached to most of the body's cells. HLAs help the body recognize which cells belong to your body and which do not. Your baby gets half the HLA from the egg and half from the sperm.

"The pregnant mom then makes antibodies to the HLA from the dad because they do not recognize those proteins," says Adams. "If a pregnant mom gives plasma with those HLA antibodies, the recipient of the transfusion may have a transfusion reaction called TRALI (transfusion-related acute lung injury). This is one of the more serious transfusion reactions that can lead to death."

After the American Red Cross discovered that the majority of TRALI cases were associated with female-donated plasma between 2003 and 2005, they began distributing plasma from only male donors in 2006. By 2008, they found there was a substantial decrease in reported TRALI cases since the implementation of that guidance.

Currently, the Red Cross will ask questions of new platelet donors regarding their pregnancy history. If they have been pregnant in the past, they will test their platelets for the antibodies known to cause post-transfusion complications. If you have not been pregnant, this isn't an issue.

Is It Safe For Baby?

There aren't any studies on whether or not donating plasma is safe for baby or not. This is likely because plasma centers will not accept donations from anyone who is currently pregnant due to the potentially dangerous transfusion reaction for patients on the receiving end.

Dr. Adams points out that plasma is known to deliver nutrients to the fetus and help with the removal of waste. "[Plasma] also supports venous return (meaning blood flow to your heart) and if you don't have as much plasma that could affect nutrients, blood, and volume flowing to the placenta," she says.

Without more research on the topic, it is unclear whether or not plasma donation is safe for baby.

Why You Should Not Donate Plasma While Pregnant

You should not donate plasma while pregnant because of the potential complications for the plasma recipient. The potential transfusion reaction known as TRALI can be fatal for the person receiving the plasma. It's best to hold off on donating plasma until you are no longer pregnant and your healthcare provider says it is safe to do so again.

Risks of Donating Plasma While Pregnant

There are no known health risks of donating plasma for the person who is pregnant. But again, there is a potential risk of complications for the plasma recipient. If the transfusion results in TRALI, a very serious pulmonary condition, this syndrome could have deadly results for the recipient. TRALI must be recognized and treated quickly to prevent serious complications or fatality.

When Can I Resume Donating Plasma?

It's currently up for debate when and if a person with a history of pregnancy can donate plasma. As Dr. Adams mentioned, it's recommended that you wait until you are at least six weeks postpartum to donate and, at that time, the collection center will likely test your plasma for those HLA antibodies.

If you have plans to breastfeed, Kim Langdon, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist with nearly two decades of clinical experience, advises against trying to donate plasma during this period of time.

"It’s probably not a good idea because plasma donation may decrease your milk production," says Langdon. "Adequate milk production depends on adequate hydration. It is not unsafe but you will feel fatigued afterward."

She encourages donors to wait until they have finished breastfeeding before they attempt to donate again, cautioning that if these HLA antibodies continue to be detected they will not be able to use the donation.

Pregnancy Safe Alternatives

Pregnant individuals should refrain from donating plasma, but there are many other safe ways you can help others and support your local community. Instead of donating your plasma, you can donate your time. Volunteer to work at a plasma donation site or blood drive. If you have the financial means to do, consider making a donation to the Red Cross or another similar agency. You could also host a blood drive if you have a space large enough to do so.

A Word From Verywell

Though it might be frustrating to refrain from activities you typically find fulfilling, remember that this is a time to do what is best for not only yourself and your baby, but also the recipients of your goodwill gestures. Considering the risk involved in plasma transfusion from pregnant donors to medical patients should be all you need to take a step back for now.

Ultimately, if you have any questions or concerns about what you should and should not do during your pregnancy, it's highly recommended that you talk to a healthcare provider.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Frenet EM, Scaradavou A. Human leukocyte antigens. In: Transfusion Medicine and Hemostasis. Elsevier; 2019:191-197. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-813726-0.00032-5

  2. Toy P, Gajic O, Bacchetti P, et al. Transfusion-related acute lung injury: incidence and risk factorsBlood. 2012;119(7):1757-1767. doi:10.1182/blood-2011-08-370932

  3. American Red Cross Blood Services. How hosting a blood drive works.

By Kelly Kamenetzky
Kelly Kamenetzky is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer/editor with more than a decade of experience covering the parenting and family space. She enjoys connecting with experts in the parenting field and delivering impactful recommendations on family issues. She is also a mother of three.