Can People with Bleeding Disorders Donate Blood?

Can People with Bleeding Disorders Donate Blood?

Learn what FDA and the Red Cross recommend, plus other myths and facts about giving blood.
Author: Michael Hickey

People with bleeding disorders face the constant risk of bleeding and as a result are often turned away by blood donation centers. These centers also turn away people who have received factor concentrate because of the risk of viral contamination. On top of that, many hemophilia treatment centers will advise people who infuse not to donate blood because they need to protect their veins.

Given these risks, anyone with a bleeding disorder or symptoms of a bleeding disorder shouldn’t donate blood. That said, there’s still some confusion about who can donate blood and the effects that donating blood may have. Read on for more of the general myths about donating blood—and the truth behind them.

Myth #1: Your Partner Can’t Donate Blood if You Have Hemophilia

The Food and Drug Administration revised its recommendations for reducing the risk of HIV transmission by blood, announcing that because of enhanced safety measures used in the manufacturing of clotting factor concentrates, the organization doesn’t consider those products a risk for HIV anymore. During the AIDS epidemic in the United States, those with hemophilia were at high risk of contracting HIV from donated blood. Thousands of people with hemophilia developed AIDS and died, while many others from that era still live with HIV today.

As a result of this revision—spurred by improved safety measures—sexual partners of people with bleeding disorders are no longer deferred (under prior donor policies, partners of people with hemophilia were deferred, or ineligible to donate, for one year).

However, FDA does still defer donors with bleeding disorders indefinitely; the rationale has simply changed from preventing HIV transmission to ensuring that such donors aren’t harmed by the use of large-bore needles.

Myth #2: You Can’t Give Blood if You Have a Tattoo

According to the American Red Cross, you can give blood immediately after getting a tattoo in most states, as long as you went to a tattoo shop that’s state-regulated (you’ll need to wait three months to donate if that isn’t the case). If you get a tattoo in Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Wyoming, or Washington, DC, however, you must wait three months no matter what.

Myth #3: You Can’t Donate Blood if You’re on Medication

While this is true in some cases, most medications don’t prevent you from donating. Common medications such as those for blood pressure, birth control pills and over-the-counter drugs don’t make you ineligible.

The Red Cross states that some medications affect your eligibility as a blood donor, including the following:

  • Antiplatelet agents (taken to prevent stroke or heart attack) affect platelet function, so people taking these drugs should not donate platelets for the indicated time—up to 14 days, depending on the medication (though you may still be able to give whole blood).
  • Anticoagulants, or “blood thinners,” affect the blood’s ability to clot, which might cause excessive bruising or bleeding when you donate.

Myth #4: Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM) Can’t Donate Blood

FDA has also changed its recommendation from an indefinite deferral for MSM to a three-month blood donation deferral since last MSM contact. FDA first recommended a 12-month deferral period for MSM in 2015, and as of 2020 there had been no increase in HIV in blood donations since the policy change.

Myth #5: Donating Blood Can Be Dangerous

With FDA relaxing certain regulations on deferrals, fears may arise about receiving blood from someone with a contagious disease or from dirty needles. Those concerns are unfounded, as donated blood is tested before it is used. And new, sterile disposable equipment is used for each donor, so there’s almost no risk of contracting a bloodborne infection.

“While a blood supply with zero risk of transmitting infectious disease may not be possible, the blood supply is safer than it has ever been,” FDA states on its website.