Donating blood is a great way to support sick people who need a blood transfusion. If you donated blood before having bariatric surgery, you might be wondering if you can continue donating blood after weight loss surgery.
What to Know About Donating Blood after Weight Loss Surgery
About 70% of the body’s iron supply is found in red blood cells, called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is essential for blood production and supplying oxygen to your body’s organs and tissues. When you donate blood, you remove about 200 to 250 mg of iron from your body which can be harmful after bariatric surgery.
Studies have found that an average of 35% of bariatric patients will become iron deficient within two years post-operatively. Most of the iron we intake is absorbed in the small intestines, which is bypassed after surgery, increasing the chances of a patient becoming iron deficient after bariatric surgery.
Ultimately, we do not recommend donating blood after weight loss surgery, especially within the first few months post-operatively. We also encourage you to speak with your bariatric team about the possibility of donating blood. They should check your hemoglobin levels before the donation to ensure you are not iron deficient or at risk of becoming anemic. Yet, even in patients with good hemoglobin stores, donating blood after weight loss surgery can put you at a greater risk of developing long-term anemia.
It is acceptable to donate plasma after bariatric surgery. Plasma is a clear liquid that comprises about 55% of human blood and remains after removing white blood cells, red blood cells, and other cellular components. Since a plasma donation does not lower your red blood cell count, patients are not at risk of developing low iron levels they otherwise would if donating blood after weight loss surgery.
Nonetheless, we still recommend patients wait about three months after their bariatric procedure before considering donating plasma. And again, we highly encourage you to consult your bariatric care team before beginning this process.