Blood donation can be a simple way to help people in crises. However, pregnant people are not eligible to donate blood as it may increase the risk of complications such as anemia and compromise fetal health.

In this article, we explore why pregnant women should not donate blood, and when it is safe to donate after giving birth.

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Pregnant women require extra iron to help the fetus develop correctly, and giving blood may result in iron-deficiency anemia, which can be problematic.

Anemia frequently occurs during pregnancy, and iron-deficiency anemia is the most common type.

A 2015 review reports that as many as 52% of pregnant women worldwide have an iron deficiency.

Anemia occurs when the body either does not make enough healthy red blood cells or they do not work efficiently, and this can prevent the body from having enough iron.

Meanwhile, pregnancy creates a higher demand for iron to help the fetus grow. During pregnancy, the average woman requires 350–500 milligrams of additional iron in order to prevent a deficiency.

Blood donation may increase the risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia.

The British pregnancy charity Tommy’s notes that, although the chances are low, untreated iron-deficiency anemia may lead to:

  • premature birth
  • low birth weight
  • placental abruption — the placenta coming away from the wall of the uterus, which can be dangerous

The American Red Cross require women to wait 6 weeks after giving birth before donating blood.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) warn against donating blood during breastfeeding. They recommend waiting 9 months after the pregnancy ends or 3 months after the baby is mostly weaned from breastfeeding.

This may be because a nursing infant relies on the nutrients in breast milk for their growth.

After giving birth, a woman can donate the blood that remains in the umbilical cord and the placenta.

This blood supply is special because it contains stem cells, which can play a role in lifesaving treatments.

Stem cells from a cord blood donation may help in treating:

Anyone considering donating cord blood should discuss the process with their doctor or other hospital representatives.

No, blood centers do not test for pregnancy.

The attendant may ask a person about their medical history, recent travel, and whether any medications could be in their system.

They also measure basic vital signs, such as pulse, blood pressure, and temperature, and perform a test to check hemoglobin levels.

Transfusion-related acute lung injury

Although blood centers do not test for pregnancy, they may ask how many times a woman has been pregnant.

The purpose is to check for the risk of transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI), a complication that can develop in a person who has received a blood transfusion.

According to the Red Cross, although TRALI is rare, it is among the most common causes of death related to blood transfusion.

Plasma and platelets that cause TRALI contain antibodies to human leukocyte antigens.

During pregnancy, a woman may be exposed to the fetus’ blood and may develop these antibodies as a result. It is important to note that these antibodies do not affect the woman, but they can harm recipients of her blood.

Not all women who have been pregnant develop human leukocyte antibodies. But a blood center may test the blood of a female donor. This test will be repeated if the number of pregnancies has changed.

If the test for human leukocyte antibodies is negative, a woman can continue donating plasma and platelets.

Pregnant women are not eligible to donate blood. The body needs the blood and its iron to support the fetus.

Donating blood during pregnancy may increase the risk of complications such as anemia and compromise fetal health.

The Red Cross require a woman to wait at least 6 weeks after giving birth before donating blood. However, other health authorities recommend a longer wait, after the baby has been weaned from breastfeeding.

Directly after birth, a woman can donate the blood from the umbilical cord and placenta, which contains stem cells.

A doctor or another healthcare provider can advise each woman about the right time to resume donating blood, and they can also help facilitate cord donation.