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How Often Can You Donate Plasma?

Learn how frequently you can donate and common reasons that may impact your eligibility.

January 02, 2022

Unlike donating whole blood, which you can only do once every 56 days, plasma donors can donate plasma twice every seven days with one day in between donations.

Though this answer seems simple, it's easy to get confused. Keep in mind that the two donations per week rule refers to a seven-day period—not a calendar week.  

The only exceptions to this rule are if you are donating plasma or convalescent plasma at the American Red Cross, a community blood center, or a hospital. Typically these donations can only be made once every 28 days.

How Often You Can Donate, Explained

Another way to think about it is that each time you donate, you can only have donated once in the previous seven days. Your donation count does not automatically reset at the beginning of each calendar week. So, even if it's a new week, if you donated twice near the end of the week before, you likely won't be able to return to your plasma donation center until the end of the current week.

This seven-day rule can get tricky, especially if you usually donate on the same two days of the week—say Monday and Wednesday. If you needed to push back your donations to Tuesday and Thursday for one week, then the following week you wouldn't be able to resume your usual schedule. 

This can feel inconvenient, but this rule is in place to protect plasma donors and ensure they're always at their healthiest before donating. Blood plasma contains proteins that are used to create plasma protein therapies for individuals with primary immunodeficiencies, lung disease, or blood clotting disorders.

Blood plasma takes 24 to 48 hours to regenerate, which is why there must be at least one day in between donations. The seven-day limit allows for additional downtime so that the body can rest and replenish.

If this seems a bit confusing, you're not alone. Thankfully, finding and scheduling appointments ahead of time at Parachute is simple because our app does the math for you. If an appointment date falls too soon after a previous appointment, the day will be automatically greyed out on your calendar.

Image of Parachute app calendar screen with two donations scheduled and the days in between blocked out.

Common Reasons You May Be Deferred

Even if you plan to always visit your donation center twice a week, it's still possible that you'll run into at least one scenario that could impact how often you can donate. For example, if during your health screening one of your vitals isn't within the required ranges, you may not be able to donate that day. This is what's known as a deferral. Below are the most common reasons that you might be deferred from plasma donation: 

Low Hematocrit 

Hematocrit is a measure of how many red blood cells your body has. It's important to ensure you have a healthy red blood cell count before donating plasma as red blood cells are responsible for transporting oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Low hematocrit could be a sign of illness, vitamin deficiency, or another medical condition and can put the donor at potential risk for negative side effects like anemia.

In order to donate, women must have a hematocrit level between 38%-54% and men must fall between 39%-54%. If you're unable to donate due to your hematocrit level, eating more foods like red meat and spinach can help boost your blood's iron levels, and in turn, your hematocrit. 

Low or High Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is typically expressed with two numbers, called diastolic and systolic blood pressure. To donate plasma at Parachute your blood pressure must be above 90/50 and below 160/100 on the day of donation. If your blood pressure falls below this range, you're more likely to experience side effects like dizziness or fainting. So you'll be deferred from donating on that day. 

This is also the case if you have high blood pressure. If your blood pressure is consistently out of range, it may be a good idea to talk to your primary care physician, as they can recommend lifestyle changes or medication.

Abnormal Pulse

Your heart rate, also known as your pulse, refers to the number of times your heart beats per minute. Your pulse is a good indicator of your overall health and it must be between 50 and 100 beats per minute to donate plasma at Parachute.

A physician substitute will also check for any abnormalities in your heart rhythm. If your heart is racing due to nerves about the donation process, it can help to take slow and deep breaths before your vitals check, as this can have a natural calming effect. We also recommend avoiding caffeine or nicotine, as these substances can also lead to an elevated reading.

Image of a smiling woman laying on a blue donation bed at a blood donation center.

Other Factors That Impact How Often You Can Donate

The most common reasons for a donation deferral typically only prevent you from donating for one day. However, there are some situations where you may be deferred from donating for a longer period of time. Here are the main reasons why you may be temporarily deferred:

Illness

If you are sick and have a fever on donation day, you would be temporarily deferred and unable to donate until your symptoms have subsided and you're feeling better. If you are taking certain medications to treat an illness, you may also be temporarily deferred and required to obtain medical authorization from your primary care physician.

Medical

Certain treatments and procedures, such as surgery or if you've recently had a blood transfusion or received another donated blood product, may affect your donation eligibility.

Tattoos and Piercings

If you've gotten a tattoo or piercing in the last 12 months, you may be deferred from donation for 6 months to a year, depending on your location. This is because there's a risk that the needles used could transmit an infectious disease like hepatitis. Though the chances are low, it's safer to not allow donations from those who've recently been tattooed or pierced, since this could pose a risk to patients who receive medicine from your plasma. 

Pregnancy

As you might expect, pregnant women aren't eligible to donate, both during pregnancy and for six months post-partum. This is because the body's requirements for iron and red blood cells are increased during pregnancy to support the fetus. Donating blood or plasma during pregnancy may also increase the risk of complications such as anemia in both mother and baby and compromise fetal health.

Whole Blood Donation 

During plasma donation, your red blood cells are separated from your plasma and returned to your body. However, during a whole blood, double red cell, or platelet donation, your blood components are not returned to you and it can take several weeks for your body to replenish the donated red cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Because of this, you can't donate plasma for 8 weeks after a whole blood donation.

How to Maximize Your Donations

If you want to donate plasma as often as possible, either to increase your impact or your earnings—or both—you'll want to follow a healthy diet. Many of the reasons for a donation deferral are to protect your health, so to donate twice a week, every week, you'll need to take care of your body. What are the two simplest things you can do? Eat plenty of protein and iron-rich foods and aim to drink an extra 16 ounces of water before your donation. This is in addition to the recommended 9 to 13 cups of water you should consume daily. Want more donation health tips? Read our guide.

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This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.