Donating blood is a great way to help sick people who need a blood transfusion. If you donated blood before having bariatric surgery, you might be wondering if you can continue to donate blood after weight loss surgery.
What to Know if You Donate Blood after Weight Loss Surgery
Nearly 70% of the body's iron supply is found in red blood cells, called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is essential for blood production and supplying your body's organs and tissues with oxygen. When you donate blood, you remove about 200 to 250 mg of iron from your body which can be detrimental after bariatric surgery.
Studies have found that an average of 35% of bariatric patients will become iron deficient within two years after surgery. 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 post-operatively.
Therefore, we do not recommend patients donate blood after weight loss surgery, especially within the first few months post-operatively. We also encourage you to speak with your bariatric care team about the possibility of donating blood. They should check your hemoglobin levels before the donation to ensure you are not iron deficient and at risk of becoming anemic. Yet, even in patients who have good hemoglobin stores, donating blood after weight loss surgery can put you at a greater risk of developing anemia long-term.
However, 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 they donate blood after weight loss surgery. Nonetheless, we still recommend patients wait about three months after their bariatric procedure before considering donating plasma. Similarly, we highly encourage you to consult your bariatric care team before beginning this process.