Can I Donate Blood While Pregnant?

Woman donating blood

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When you find out that you're pregnant, you may immediately start wondering what kind of lifestyle changes you'll need to make. There are foods you will have to hold off on and activities you might have to stop doing for now. If blood donation is something you regularly partake in, or if you recently became interested in donating blood, you may wonder whether you can donate blood with a baby on the way.

As charitable as blood donation is, you really need to hang on to all of your own blood during your pregnancy. Keeping your red blood cell count high is important for you and your unborn baby.

Donating Blood During Pregnancy

People who are pregnant are not eligible to donate blood. "They need all of their blood and iron to help them stay healthy during their pregnancy," says Felice Gersh, MD, an award-winning OB/GYN specializing in all aspects of women’s health, and founder/director of the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine, in Irvine, CA.

Iron is an essential mineral that the body uses to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin carries oxygen to all parts of the body, which helps it grow and develop. A person who does not have enough iron to produce the amount of hemoglobin their body needs has iron-deficiency anemia.

Pregnant women are among the highest risk groups for iron-deficient anemia. You also lose a substantial amount of blood during delivery. "For vaginal deliveries, it is common for there to be 500 milliliters of blood loss or more, and for Caesarian sections, it is common for there to be 1,000 milliliters of blood loss or more," says Taylor Graber, MD, a San Diego-based anesthesiologist at the University of California San Diego and owner of a mobile IV hydration company.

Iron is needed for fetal development, to support the placenta's growth, and to increase the pregnant person's red blood cell count. "Women who are pregnant often become iron deficient and must increase iron intake and certainly cannot afford to have iron removed from their bodies by donating blood," Dr. Gersh explains.

Every pregnancy is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about donating blood while pregnant.

Is It Safe for Baby?

Donating blood is not safe for an unborn baby because it depletes iron, an essential mineral for fetal development. Low iron during pregnancy could lead to issues like low birth weight, preterm birth, and stillbirth. "Babies need a lot of iron during their development and growth and should not have to be subjected to a reduced iron environment," explains Dr. Gersh.

Why You Should Not Donate Blood While Pregnant

Donating blood is unsafe for both an expecting parent and their unborn child. These risks outweigh any benefits of donating blood, such as adding to the storage of safe and readily available blood for use in transfusions. During pregnancy, you are already sharing your blood with your developing baby, and you will not have any more to spare.

Risks of Donating Blood While Pregnant


People wh are pregnant are at an increased risk of Iron-deficiency anemia. Low iron puts your baby at risk and it can also lead to fainting.

Fainting

Iron-deficiency anemia can cause fainting spells. Additionally, if you were to donate blood while pregnant, Dr. Gersh says that there could be a substantial drop in blood pressure from the reduced blood volume, which can also lead to fainting.

Fainting is particularly problematic during pregnancy because falls can lead to preterm labor, the placenta separating prematurely from the uterine wall, and low oxygen levels in the fetus, which can be fatal.

Low Birth Weight

Low birth weight, which is less than five pounds eight ounces, is another risk associated with iron deficiency anemia. Babies who are born at low birth weight face additional risks, including breathing problems, jaundice, and an underdeveloped immune system.

Preterm Birth

Not getting enough iron during pregnancy may put your baby at risk of being born prematurely. Preterm babies can face health issues and suffer from cognitive problems later in life.

Stillbirth

Iron deficiency has been linked to stillbirth, which is pregnancy loss after 20 weeks.

When Can I Resume Donating Blood?

You can safely donate blood nine months after you deliver, but not if you are breastfeeding. Breastfeeding mothers should wait three months after their baby is weaned, or at least getting most of their nutrition from solid foods or baby formula. Dr. Gersh also recommends asking your doctor if your iron levels and blood count are back to normal before donating blood again.

In the past, having ever been pregnant disqualified you from ever donating blood again, but this is no longer the case. It was thought that antibodies pregnant people may produce when exposed to fetal blood could be dangerous for the transfusion recipient, but this has been disproven.

Pregnancy Safe Alternatives

During pregnancy, you are fully supporting a new life. That is already a lot to give! If you still wish to make a difference in the lives of those who need donated blood to survive or be cured, there are a few things you can do other than donating blood.

Donate Financially

If you can't give blood, consider making a financial contribution to the Red Cross or another agency that works to save lives. They can use your money to help make sure those who are in need of transfusions get them, as well as to help in other medical or rescue endeavors.

Host a Blood Drive

Blood drives make blood donation possible. If you have a large space where a blood drive can be set up, you can host one. The Red Cross will provide trained staff, equipment, and supplies, as well as tools to help you plan and recruit. You will need to recruit volunteers and donors to your blood drive.

Volunteer

Consider volunteering for the Red Cross or another agency that helps people if you want to make a difference in others' lives. You don't have to be on a disaster team either. There are many options for behind-the-scenes volunteer work like scheduling volunteer shifts or supply team management.

A Word From Verywell

Donating blood is not recommended when you are expecting. During pregnancy, you are at an increased risk for iron deficiency anemia. Proper iron levels are essential for your baby's development as well ask your own health. Donating blood depletes iron, so it is not considered safe.

If you feel inclined to help others, you can find other ways to contribute. You may also want to remind yourself that your blood is currently providing your unborn child with one hundred percent of their nutrition. In a way, you are already "donating" blood. Reach out to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about donating blood while pregnant.

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