Donating whole blood and blood plasma are two very safe procedures that can help save many people’s lives in hospitals and treatment facilities all over the world. If you are considering donating plasma for the first time, a few questions might be going through your mind, such as “how often can you donate plasma?” and “how many times can you donate plasma in a year?”
Read on to find the answer to these questions, as well as which cases will not permit a plasma donation.
How Often Can You Donate Plasma?
Typically, when making a whole blood donation, a waiting period of at least 56 days is required before you are allowed to donate blood again. This allows sufficient time for your blood to regenerate and replenish its iron stores.
But blood plasma donations are different since only plasma is taken out. Blood plasma only takes 24 to 48 hours to regenerate, which means you can theoretically donate blood plasma as often as three times a week, with a waiting period of at least 24 hours between each donation.
However, the Food And Drug Administration (FDA) imposes a seven-day rule on all authorized plasma donations. Under the seven-day rule, donors can only donate plasma up to two times within a seven-day period, with at least a day between donations. This seven-day period does not follow the calendar week, which means you cannot automatically donate again on Monday if you’ve already donated on Thursday and Saturday the week prior. You can only return to your donation center again on Thursday the current week.
Keeping track of your donation schedule can become quite challenging due to this seven-day rule, especially if you’re used to donating on specific days of the week. For instance, if your weekly donation schedule is set on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but you have to do it on a Wednesday and Friday the next week, you won’t be able to return to your original schedule the following week.
Although it may be tricky, this rule was created to protect you and give your body sufficient time to recover and regenerate lost plasma. This also ensures that you’re in optimal health when donating.
Common Reasons You May Be Rejected
Suppose you plan to donate blood plasma regularly and want to maximize your donations. In that case, it helps to learn about the different scenarios where you might be rejected or “deferred” from donating. Here are some of the most common reasons you could be deferred from donating plasma:
Recent Alcohol Intake
Donating blood plasma while under the influence or a day after alcohol intake is not recommended, although alcohol itself doesn’t affect blood plasma. Unlike most drugs, alcohol doesn’t bind to plasma. Nevertheless, a screener might still decide to defer you from donating plasma if you’ve consumed alcohol recently.
Being under the influence might alter your perception and affect your ability to give informed consent for the donation. It might also hinder you from providing an accurate health history, which creates a safety hazard for both you and the recipient of your plasma.
Furthermore, alcohol is a diuretic and can cause dehydration. Because plasma is made up of 92 percent water, donating can dehydrate you further, which can cause you to collapse or at least feel dizzy and lightheaded. That’s why it’s recommended that you avoid drinking alcohol at least 24 hours before donating.
Low Hematocrit Count
The hematocrit measures the number of red blood cells in the blood. Hematocrit levels in the blood are measured as a percentage by volume, with normal ranges being 41% to 50% for men and 36% to 48% for women. These numbers are used to indicate the presence or absence of a potentially life-threatening disease.
Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. Not enough red blood cells can indicate anemia and may lead to fatigue, weakness, and low energy. Meanwhile, too many red blood cells can indicate dehydration, which may lead to headaches and dizziness or potentially life-threatening diseases like heart or lung disease.
When hematocrit levels are found to be outside the normal range, you may be deferred from donating until at least they return to normal. Eating iron-rich foods and drinking more water than you’re used to can help resolve these issues within 24 hours. Otherwise, seek medical help.
Abnormal Vital Signs
Before you can donate blood plasma, you will be asked to undergo a preliminary screening process, which entails measuring your vital signs, such as your body temperature and pulse rate. Although not a vital sign, your blood pressure will also be measured simultaneously. These are good indicators of your overall state of health and must fall under a specific range before you are allowed to make a plasma donation.
Normal ranges for vital signs and blood pressure are as follows:
- Pulse Rate: 50 to 100 bpm
- Body Temperature: 97o F (36.1o C) to 99o F (37.2o C)
- Blood Pressure: 120/80 mmHg (but can be allowed to donate when above 90/50 and below 160/100)
Other Factors That Impact How Often You Can Donate
So, how many times can you donate plasma in a year? If you make regular visitors to the donation center (up to two times a week) while considering the FDA’s seven-day rule on authorized plasma donations, you can donate plasma up to 104 times a year.
However, many other factors can influence that number and reduce the number of times you can donate plasma. Aside from those mentioned above, here are a few different reasons you might be deferred temporarily or permanently from donating:
After having undergone surgery, you will be deferred from donating, especially if the procedure was recent enough.
After donating blood, it normally takes your body 56 days to replenish fully. However, when you take a surgical procedure into account where you lose a considerable amount of blood, recovery will certainly take much longer.
Generally, doctors recommend waiting at least six months after a major surgery before donating. But evaluating whether you’re fit to donate is on a case-to-case basis to determine whether the condition that precipitated the surgery was corrected and whether your wounds have sufficiently healed.
Tattoos and Piercings
Getting a tattoo or piercing within the last 12 months can also cause deferment by at least six months. Because needles were involved in the minor procedure, there is a risk of contracting an infectious disease that could be transmitted to a plasma recipient. Although the chances are extremely low thanks to modern tattoo and piercing practices, medical professionals deem it safer to err on the side of caution.
Iron and red blood cell requirements are at an all-time high during pregnancy in order to protect your growing baby and yourself as you give birth. Therefore, pregnant women won’t be allowed to donate blood or plasma to protect the mother from potential complications. Additionally, to help mothers recover from extreme blood loss, they are also not allowed to donate blood or plasma for at least six months after childbirth.
For the protection of both the donor and plasma recipient, those who are sick are also not eligible to donate plasma and will be temporarily deferred until a few days after symptoms have subsided.
A fever is a symptom that you’re dealing with an infection. But it could also be a sign of something more serious, which means there is a risk of transmission. Furthermore, if your illness requires you to take a particular medication, you will need to secure authorization from your primary care physician before you can donate plasma.
After donating plasma, you can wait two to three days before donating whole blood. But the waiting time is considerably longer when you want to donate plasma after a whole blood donation. This is because, after a whole blood donation, it takes at least 56 days for your blood to replenish fully, which means you have to wait at least eight weeks before you can donate plasma again.
Donating plasma is a safe and easy procedure that can help save countless lives. If you want to know if you are eligible to donate plasma, check out our eligibility checklist or talk to us for more information. Sign up today, be a donor, and save lives!