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Blood-donation

Can you give a blood-donation yourself?

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Feb 15th 2018

17 things every woman needs to know about giving blood

Giving blood is something we should all try to do if we can. Blood is in short supply, so it's important to donate if possible.

If you've never given blood before, the chances are you'll have some questions about the process, the requirements, the snacks and a whole lot more. So we asked Ebony Dunkley, a Senior Sister for NHS Blood & Transplant, to share all the information women could possibly need before signing up.

1. Can you give blood on your period?

"You may give blood during a period, but if you are having a particularly heavy period it would be better for you not to. This is because any form of blood loss can reduce the iron levels in your body and potentially make you feel unwell for a short time. If you are having medical investigations please wait until these have been completed.

"You must also exclude pregnancy if a period has been missed before you give blood. If you have been prescribed medication by your doctor to help cope with period pain or are having heavy or prolonged periods, we ask you to give us a call on 0300 123 23 23 to check this before you make your appointment."

2. How much blood is actually taken?

"During a blood donation we take 470ml of blood, which is just under a pint."

3. Can all blood types donate?

"All blood types can be taken and we always need different blood groups, but there are times when we may make an appeal for people with rare blood types, such as O negative and B negative, to donate. This is based on the demand for that blood type at a given time. If you don't know your blood type, you will find out after your first donation." 

4. Do any health conditions rule you out of giving blood?

"Although most people can give blood, there are some restrictions - depending on things like your health, medication, and whether you've been abroad recently. You are usually able to give blood provided you are: 

Fit and healthy

Weigh between 7 stone 12 lbs and 25 stone, or 50kg and 160kg

Are aged between 17 and 66, or over 70 and have given blood in the last two years

If you are underweight, pregnant, receiving IVF treatment, are on certain types of medication or have previously received a blood transfusion, you are unable to give blood."

5. Are there any tests you have to undergo prior to donating blood

"When you go for your appointment, the staff will carry out a pre-assessment to make sure you are able to give blood on the day. You can visit Blood.co.uk and answer NHS Blood and Transplants interactive questions which cover the most common reasons donors are unable to donate when they attend their appointment."

6. Can gay women give blood?

"Yes, if they are fit and healthy, and meet all the other criteria in the guidelines relating to health, medication and travel and who also pass the pre- assessment on the day."

7. Can you find out what happens to your blood?

"Shortly after your donation, you will receive a text message telling you which hospital your blood has been sent to."

8. How many times can you give blood?

"Women can donate every 16 weeks (so about 3 times a year). Men can give every 12 weeks as they have more haemoglobin in their blood."

9. Can giving blood cause you to be anaemic?

"Yes, if you donate too frequently. Haemoglobin ( the red pigment in your blood) levels vary from person to person. Men usually have higher levels than women due to women having periods, but we set a fairly high 'cut-off' level because we want to be sure that your haemoglobin will not drop below normal after you have donated."

10. What should you eat and drink before giving blood?

"Eating regularly before donating will help to keep your blood sugar levels stable. This is important so that you don't feel lightheaded or dizzy after your donation. Having a snack before donation can help maintain these blood sugar levels. Ensuring that your diet contains foods rich in iron - such as meats and green leafy vegetables - will help to keep you feeling well during and after donation. It's really important to have plenty of fluid before coming to donate so that you are properly hydrated."

11. Can you drink alcohol before giving blood?

"We recommend that you do not drink alcohol on the day you have donated. Almost half of the blood that you donate is made up of water. The fluids that you lose during donation can cause a drop in blood pressure which may contribute to you to feeling faint and dizzy. To help prevent this from happening we ask you to drink 500ml of water immediately before you give blood - we'll give this to you before you donate.

"It's also important to ensure that you are well hydrated in the days leading up to your donation. This will help to compensate for the fluids lost during donation, and will help to bring your blood volume levels back to normal. It is essential to avoid alcohol before and after donating as this may affect hydration levels and delay recovery."

12. Are you allowed to exercise before/after giving blood?

"Avoid doing any vigorous exercise or heavy lifting the day of your donation – both before and after you've given blood. Keeping your body in a rested state is important to give it a chance to replenish the fluids lost during donation, which will help you avoid feeling dizzy or lightheaded and keep you well. Light exercise such as walking is fine, but please make sure that you are fully recovered and hydrated prior to your donation."

13. How long does the whole process take?

"The whole process from takes about an hour."

14. What are the best foods to eat after you've given blood?

"You will be encouraged to have at least two drinks and a snack before you leave the donation centre, to re-hydrate the fluids you have lost during the donation and to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Once you have left the centre, you are able to eat and drink as normal. It's important to eat a healthy diet with adequate iron in it to replenish the iron you will have lost in the donation."

115. Can you have sex after giving blood?

"As stated above, it is strongly advised that you avoid intense exercise for a few hours after giving blood for the same reasons."

16. Is it fine to go back to work after giving blood?

"To help you stay well after you have given blood, you should rest for about 30 mins. You are also encouraged to eat and drink before leaving the donation centre. But after that, you are fine to go back to work. However, it is best to avoid using the donation arm to carry anything very heavy for the rest of the day. It is also best to avoid having a hot bath or shower after you have given blood."

17. What physical side effects can people expect to experience afterwards?

"Most people feel absolutely fine after giving blood. Occasionally people may feel faint (light headed or dizzy, hot, sweating, trembling, shaky or nauseous) and if you do, you should lie down immediately, rest until you feel better and drink plenty of fluid. Any bruising is usually harmless and will disappear over time. You will be given information to advise you of what to do should you have any concerns."

NHS Blood and Transplant is asking young people in 2018 to make a regular Date2Donate to give blood. To sign up easily to donate and access more information, visit the Date2Donate website.

Nov 31st 2017

Related: New research suggests umbilical cord blood could rejuvenate the brain (Provided by Wochit News)

Instead of discarding your baby’s umbilical cord or preserving it to be used as household items or jewellery (yes, that’s a thing), new mums could donate it to save someone’s life.

Blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan is asking people to donate the blood from their baby’s cord and their placenta to be used in vital stem cell transplantations.

Cord blood can be used in stem cell transplants for child and adult patients with three main groups of blood cancer: leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma/blood disorders.

Women are being reassured by the charity that the donation is 'totally risk-free and won’t interfere with your delivery, afterbirth or birth plan in the slightest'.

Henny Braund, chief executive of Anthony Nolan, explained: 'Cord blood stem cells, which are collected after a woman gives birth, are vital in stem cell transplantation.

'Currently only 60% of patients can find the best possible match from a stranger, this drops dramatically to 20% for patients from black, Asian or minority ethnic heritage.

'Cord blood is an important way of closing the gap for patients in need.'

The charity collects cord blood at four hospitals in London, Manchester, and Leicester, and Braund said these are hospitals where lots of babies are born every year, and where the local community is ethnically diverse.

Unlike with stem cells donated by adults, cord blood donors and recipients don’t need to be an exact match, as the stem cells in cord blood aren’t so mature and can develop to suit their recipient.

For women interested in donating their umbilical cord, the process is quite simple.

After a woman has given birth and delivered the placenta, an Anthony Nolan cord collector takes the cord and placenta to a separate room and extracts the blood.

Braund explained: 'If the cord contains enough stem cells for a transplant it will be banked in our Cell Therapy Centre where it’ll be ready for a patient in need.

'If it has a lower number of cells, then we may use it in our research to find ways to make transplants more successful. Either way, giving your cord can have a lifesaving effect.'

Giving your cord can have a lifesaving effect."Henny Braund, chief executive of Anthony Nolan

Hayley Stuart gave birth to her daughter Abigail in 2015 and decided to donate her cord blood.

Speaking about her decision, she explained: 'I can’t imagine how hard it is being told your child has blood cancer, especially if there’s no match. And that’s why I donated my cord blood.

'The whole process is so easy, and if one sick little boy or girl could be helped from it, how amazing would that be?

'I completed a form, signed it and agreed to give the cord blood. The rest was all taken care of by the Anthony Nolan team. They even came to the hospital to say thank you after Abigail was born.'

Mums-to-be can speak to their midwife about Anthony Nolan cord donation or visit the Anthony Nolan website, www.anthonynolan.org/cord to register interest.

July 25th 2017

Please consider becoming a blood donor, new donors always needed, may be someone close to you or even yourself will one day be a recipient

Blood-donation involves collecting blood from a donor so it can be used to treat someone else.

Blood donations are an essential part of our healthcare system. If we did not have volunteers giving blood, many medical procedures we take for granted could not take place.

Doctors and surgeons rely on blood donations to carry out life-saving and life-enhancing treatments every day.

How can I donate blood?

Thousands of blood-donation sessions are held each year by NHS blood and transplant, so it's usually possible to attend one that is convenient for you.

You will need to answer some questions about your health and have a quick blood test before you can give a blood-donation. This is to ensure there is no danger to yourself or someone else.

During a blood-donation, a needle is used to collect 470ml (just under one pint) of your blood.

You will need to rest for a short while after a donation, and refreshments will be offered to stop you feeling faint or dizzy.

It is usually recommended that men allow 12 weeks and women 16 weeks between donations.

Read more about how your blood-donation are performed

How is donated blood used?

In most cases, your blood will be separated into its component parts so it can be used to treat a variety of conditions. These components are:

  • red blood cells – used to treat some types of anaemia and replace blood lost as the result of an accident
  • platelets – used to treat problems with bone marrow, such as leukaemia and people with blood clotting disorders
  • plasma – used to treat conditions where abnormal clotting causes bleeding, such as liver disease, and where large volumes of blood have been lost

Donated blood may also be used to improve the quality of life of people with a terminal illness.

Other types of blood donation

There are other types of blood donation that can be used to treat a number of conditions.

Cord blood donation

Cord blood – from the placenta and umbilical cord – can be donated after a baby has been born. However, a decision must be made before the birth.

Cord blood, which is rich in stem cells, can be used to treat a number of conditions, such as leukaemia.

If you have a high platelet count in your blood, you may be able to directly donate platelets. The process is similar to giving blood normally, but often takes a bit longer.

Who can donate blood?

Most people between the ages of 17 and 66 can donate blood, although you must be in good general health.

To reduce the risk to recipients of donated blood, there are rules about who can and cannot donate.

For example, people who have ever had HIV, syphilis or hepatitis C can never donate blood. Having a recent tattoo, piercing or taking certain medication, may also mean you cannot donate blood.

More blood donors are needed

Although most people are able to give blood, only about 4% of the population donate regularly.

In England, around 8,000 blood transfusions are carried out every day, so there's a need for blood donations.

As blood can only be safely stored for a relatively short time, hospital blood stocks need to be continuously refreshed. Red blood cells can only be stored for 35 days and platelets (the part of the blood that helps prevent excessive bleeding) can only be stored for seven days.

In particular, blood donations are needed from black and Asian people because the current levels of black and Asian donors are very low. Certain ethnic groups often require certain blood types, so having donations from a wide range of ethnic groups is a more effective way of meeting the potential demand for blood.

Find out more about current blood stocks from NHS Blood and Transplant.

NHS Blood and Transplant

In England and parts of Wales, the blood donation process is overseen by NHS Blood and Transplant. This service relies on voluntary donations from the general public to keep the service running. Donating blood is a relatively quick procedure (it usually takes less than an hour) and is virtually painless.

The NHS blood and transplant website provides more information about how you can volunteer to give blood.

You can also book an appointment to donate blood near to where you live or work.

Give blood Many people would not be alive today if it wasn't for the generosity of our donors. To join them today, find a blood donation session near you

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