Saturday, July 27, 2013

Can You Donate Plasma While Breastfeeding?

Q: Can I donate plasma while breastfeeding my 3 month old baby? I know that plasma donating
during pregnancy is a big "no." I had a friend who donated plasma right after having a baby (she wasn't nursing, but the baby was formula fed.) She said she felt very sick to the point of throwing up after donating, but I know every woman's body is different. But while breastfeeding my newborn, I keep thinking of how we need money for bottles, and formula, and breast pumps, everything. Can plasma donating affect my milk, or contaminate the milk with coagulant? Would donating dry my breast milk, or somehow harm my newborn son?


Answer: According to Dr. Naleen Katz, Boston medical expert on breastfeeding and mastitis:

"Lactating and breastfeeding women are eligible to donate six months after having a baby. You should wait 6 months after giving birth to allow your body to heal. You can donate 6 months after giving birth, because with good nutrition your plasma levels, hemoglobin, iron and protein levels will return to normal."

Next, coagulant can't contaminate your breast milk, or make it harmful for the baby. Anti-coagulant (which keeps your blood from clotting while plasma donating) is a water-soluble solution. Breast milk is fat-soluble, meaning anti-coagulant won't enter the milk.

Nursing women need to take extra precautions before donating. Plasma makes up all liquids in the body - include byproducts of human lactation. When breastfeeding women are dehydrated before plasma donating, it can dry up her breast milk, especially with regular donation over long periods of time. Because nursing puts a large demand on body fluid levels, excess dehydration from plasma donating can  also cause effects including nausea, vomiting, and even vein clotting. This could be the complication that made your friend feel sick (even if she wasn't nursing.)

Nursing women should drink an extra 16 oz-1 gallon water before going in to donate, especially in the 2 hours leading up to donation. This will help you avoid complications like tiredness, sweating, racing pulse, and nausea.

Also, avoid breastfeeding in the hours before blood plasma donation, to let your body fluid levels stay stable. You shouldn't breastfeed for 2 hours before donation, and at least 4 hours after. Be sure to change your feeding schedule, or switch to formula feeding for a few hours time.

Overall, every woman's body is different. Listen to your individual body's symptoms and signals, and if you start to have a bad reaction to donating, stop donating while breastfeeding.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Can I Donate Plasma Taking Medications?

Plasma donors often ask me, "will my medication get me disqualified from plasma donating or platelets?" The answer - yes and no. While some medications are harmless, acne medications like Avodart will get you banned for life from plasma donating. Some medications, like certain antibiotics, disqualify you from donating for 30 days after the last dose. Still other medications are perfectly fine, like allergy medicines, birth control shots, and antacids.

Always call the plasma donation center or blood bank first because each center may have different rules.

Here is a list of medications you can and can't take before plasma donating:


  • Acne Medications (Accutane, E-Mycin, Solodyn, Soriatane, Propecia and Proscar): Must wait at least 30 days from last dose to donate.
  • Acne Medications (Roaccutane): indefinite deferral from donating.
  • Acne Medication (topical acid creams): no ineligibility from donation
  • Allergy or Anti-Histamine Medication: those with mild allergies and on anti-histamine therapy can donate. Chronic allergy sufferers, or those taking strong doses of anti-histamines are disqualified. If you have had an allergy shot, you can donate.
  • Antacids (like Tums, Alka-Seltzer, Prevacid, and Prilosec OTC): you can donate immediately, with no wait.
  • Anti-Coagulant, Anti Clotting Factor Medication, and Blood Thinners: prescription Blood thinners: donors are disqualified while taking long-term prescription blood thinning (anticoagulant) medication. This includes Coumadin (Warfarin), Heparin, and other blood thinning products. Taking blood thinners while donating leads to abnormal plasma, clotting, excessive bleeding, and unacceptable quality plasma for making anti-anemic medications.
  • Anti-Depressants or Anxiety Medication: no affect on plasma donation eligibility.
  • Anti-Fungal Medication (topical:) Topical anti-fungal medications, like for hair, nails, skin and scalp, have no affect on donation.
  • Antibiotics: Donors taking topical antibiotic creams, such as for athletes foot rash, fungal or nail infection can donate immediately. While taking oral antibiotics for an internal infection, like cipro, penicillin, bactrim, or amoxicillin, you must wait until 30 days after the infection has healed.
  • Anticonvulsant (Anti-Seizure) Medication: you must wait 1 year after your last seizure before donating again.
  • Arthritis Medication (osteoarthritis): you can donate immediately. 
  • Arthritis Medication (rheumatoid arthritis): indefinite, lifetime deferral from plasma donating.
  • Aspirin: Wait 48 hours for effects to wear off before plasma donating or platelets. Aspirin thins blood, which leads to excessive bleeding at injection site.
  • Asthma Medication: must wait 30 days after last athsma attack to donate, cannot donate if you've ever been in the ER for an athsma attack.
  • Birth control pills: Such as yasmin, yaz, ortho novum, and the birth control ring are fine. You can also donate immediately after getting the quarterly depo shot.
  • Blood Pressure Medication (high:) as long as your blood pressure is under control using medication, you can donate.
  • Blood Pressure Medication (low blood pressure): as long as your blood pressure is above the normal range using medication, you can donate.
  • Cholesterol Medication: high cholesterol controlled under medication, you may donate plasma.
  • Diet Pills: yes, you can donate, but all donors must remain above 110 pounds to maintain eligibility.
  • Hormones (Male, Female, or Menopause/Hormone replacement therapy): Male/female hormones (estrogen or testosterone) are eligible to donate. Hormones for hormone replacement therapy are eligible to donate immediately.
  • Hormones (growth hormones:) Cannot donate if you've taken beef-derived growth hormones before 1985. After 1985, taking growth hormones results in no disqualification.
  • Internal anti-fungal medication (oral ingested antibiotics:) for yeast infection, candida, or oral thrush, you must wait 30 days from the time of healing to donate.
  • Steroids (intramuscular injection): wait 2 days after receiving the injection to donate plasma
  • Steroids (topical, oral, and injection): you can donate immediately, without waiting.
  • Nasal Decongestants: May donate 1 week after being symptom free (from cough, cold, fever, runny nose, stuffy nose or sore throat.)
  • Natural Supplements (including fish oil pills, valerian root, st john's wort, iron pills, muscle bulk supplements, protein, bee pollen, cinnamon/ginger pills, and vitamins): you can donate immediately, with no affect on donation.
  • Schizophrenic Medication: yes, you can donate.
  • Sleeping Pills and Tranquilizers: you can donate immediately, with no waiting period.
  • Thyroid Medication: those whose thyroid levels are under control can donate plasma immediately.

What About Self Medication, Medical Testing, or Unlicensed Drugs?

If you did clinical trial testing for new medications, you need to inform the plasma center before donating. Unlicensed drugs by the FDA may have lingering side effects, even months or years after the last dose. Generally, clinical trial drugs have to be out of your system for 30 days before plasma donating.

If you self medicate, it depends on the medicine. Self injected (synthetic, not beef or pork) insulin is a perfectly acceptable prescription medicine for donating. Illegal drugs, or using needles not prescribed by your doctor, will disqualify you for life from plasma donating.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Does Donating Plasma Make You Lose Weight?


Q: Does plasma donation help with weight loss? Does donating plasma filter much fat and calories from your blood? I'm mostly asking about temporary weight loss, but also, if I eat the cookies and the juice, is it a wash? I've had some friends who lost a little weight plasma donating before. But I've donated blood for almost 10 years and I've never noticed a difference in my weight following donation.

A: Are you worried about losing weight as a side effect of donating plasma, which would be bad? It would be better to ask how many calories you burn by donating plasma (or how many calories does it cost your body to replenish the donated plasma).

According to our local Red Cross: "A blood plasma donation is equivalent to 650 calories and a plasma donation equals 470 calories. By donating the maximum amount allowed you will lose 3600 calories worth of blood per year, roughly equivalent to the number of calories in one pound of fat. Donating plasma every eight weeks means that you would give up the equivalent of 1 lb of weight per year."

When you lose your plasma, your body burns extra calories to replace it.  Blood also contains a few calories per litre. Replacing the valuable white blood cells takes the most energy. Remember that it takes several days to replenish lost blood tissue, so it has a negligible effect on calorie loss a few days after donation.


Can I Donate Often Enough To Make a Difference?

At a maximum, you'll lose 650 calories over a week by donating plasma, and you can only donate twice within 7 days. Basically, it's impossible to donate enough blood plasma to make a noticable difference (every donation burns only a few calories per time, every, what, twice a week?), and since you can't exercise the day of donation, there's not much of a positive effect. Even if donating helps you lose a little bit, FDA regulations won't let you donate plasma often enough to have a big impact on overall weight loss.

Fluid Weight Loss When Donating Plasma

Although plasma centers replace your plasma with saline, your blood volume dips after donation. Donating plasma temporarily takes one pint of liquid plasma out of your body.  Since a pint (the amount of a blood plasma you've donated) is a pound, you'll experience a (temporary) pound of weight loss when you give plasma.

Donating temporarily reduces your weight, so weighing yourself right before and after donating plasma will reveal that you're one pound lighter. But plasma centers try to replace the same volume of plasma taken with a saline solution.

So you're losing a small amount of blood volume by having plasma taken, but any weight loss is strictly temporary, until your body replenishes plasma. To stay healthy, it's recommended to drink at least what you lost in juice in water, and then drink some more.

Stay Hydrated During Plasma Donation

I used to manage a plasma donation center here in Northern Illinois. Before and after donating plasma, be sure to drink plenty of fluids and stay well hydrated. Plasma is made up of 98 percent water.  So, when you donate plasma, be sure to drink plenty, and eat high protein foods, to keep your body strong with necessary nutrients and electrolytes.

Donating plasma is a lot like losing fluid from sweat during exercise. There's not much difference between sweating and plasma donating, except when you sweat you only lose water, and a few electrolytes.

Can I Donate When Underweight?

If you  weigh less than 110 pounds, you're advised not to donate plasma, because underweight people need all the blood their body can provide. If you donated while way under the recommended weight, you are probably feeling the effects similar to hypovolemia or anemia.

Can Donating Plasma Make You Gain Weight?

Normally, you won't gain weight just from donating plasma. Weight gain from donating plasma is very uncommon, but it's not entirely unheard of. Frequent plasma donation can deplete your body's protein stores, inducing an effect called hypoglycemia  Hypoglycemia can cause accumulation of fluid between tissue spaces, leading to weight gain.

However, the after effects of donating the plasma cause hunger and weakness that arises from the removal of plasma. Plasma also contains proteins of the blood. You might gain weight from plasma donating because you instinctively eat more calories to make up for the energy lost during donation.

Tip: If you don't already do so, weigh yourself on the digital scale before donating and after, and before going to bed and after waking up and voiding.


So, Should I Donate Plasma For Weight Loss?

Asking if plasma donating helps weight loss is like asking if amputating one of your legs helps weight loss - you'll lose some of your body mass, but not in a healthy way. Studies show little to no correlation between plasma donation and large amounts of weight loss. But studies have shown other significant long-term health problems in long term plasma donors, like poor vein health and a higher risk for cardiovascular disease.

So, plasma donating will help you lose weight via fluid loss, temporarily.  Plasma is quickly replaced, and you get to keep your weight and muscle. But in the long term, blood or plasma donation will not work if you want to lose weight. If you hydrate properly after donating plasma, your body will replace any fluids they took within 48 hours.

You might feel tired or dizzy after a donation, but your weight will not change. Donating blood products won't much influence weight gain or loss, but you can help save lives by doing it. Do NOT donate plasma to help with weight loss or gain, but rather, donate to help others.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Donating Plasma Before or After Surgery

Q: Can I donate plasma after having shoulder surgery? I ask because the surgical procedure (which fixed the rotary cuff and gave me mobility in my arm again) was also very expensive, with a long painful recovery period. It took me about 3 weeks - 1 month to fully recover without pain, and take the cast off. I was also put under local anesthetic (IV injection, not gas) during the surgery.

My husband, who served as an Army vet, would also like to know if you can donate plasma after extensive surgery. He had an injury on his foot, ankle joints, knees and hands, and also had to undergo surgery to reattach his clavicle bone and fix a shattered elbow. He has to surgery in the future to remove a large cataract on his retina causing Macular degeneration (which is unrelated to his other wounds/surgeries.) He traveled abroad to foreign countries for the Army, most of his surgery and blood transfusions were done in Europe. Can either of us donate plasma since we're both a qualified "medical mess?"

I recall my mother having hip replacement 20 years ago, and carpal tunnel surgery more recently, but she was never rejected from donating blood. Thank you for your reply.


A: First of all, thank you to your husband for serving as an Army Veteran. To answer your question: yes, you can donate plasma after shoulder surgery, depending on how long in the past your surgery was done. If you had a blood transfusion during surgery, you are disqualified from plasma donating for 12 months after the transfusion (due to the risk of blood transmitted viruses and diseases.) If you had surgery over a year ago, you qualify to donate plasma again with no risk. Having local or general anesthetic applied doesn't disqualify you from donating - it only depends if you've had a blood transfusion or loss of blood during surgery.

For your husband, whether or not he can donate plasma  is more complicated. If he had blood transfusions abroad in a foreign country (any parts of Europe - France, the UK, or Germany) or even Africa due to his surgeries, he is disqualified  from donating for life. If he did not have a blood transfusion for any of his extensive surgeries, he may be eligible to donate plasma again.

It doesn't matter whether he donates plasma before cataract surgery - but for health reasons it's recommended to wait for 4 weeks before and after surgical procedures to donate plasma.
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