Plasma donation may not be as common as blood donation though the two procedures are fairly similar. Plasma makes up part of your blood, and the main difference in the procedure is that your red blood cells are separated from plasma by a process called plasmapheresis. When you donate plasma, some of the red blood cells are recycled back into the body after being separated from plasma.
There are some terrific things that can be done with blood plasma. It can help people who have difficulty with blood clotting, for instance. Much of the blood plasma collected may be used by pharmaceutical companies, and when you make a plasma donation, you usually don’t get to determine how your plasma is used. Another difference is that many people are paid for plasma donation, which is usually not the case with blood donation. Compensation isn’t huge, but it can amount to about $15-25 US Dollars (USD) per donation. Not all collectors pay, and some organizations like the American Red Cross, urge you to donate without pay.
Collection centers screen for certain types of things. If you have recently traveled to a foreign country, are promiscuous, or use intravenous drugs, you have the potential for passing on disease to others. Do not lie about these behaviors since your plasma used in another person could have potentially fatal consequences. Collection centers will also look at your health, weight, behavior, any prescription meds you might take, and they will probably test your blood for anemia. Some centers also screen for high blood sugar content.
Some people participate in plasma donation twice a week, and theoretically if you are very healthy, your plasma should be fully restored within 48 hours after a donation. However, organizations like the Red Cross will only let you donate once a month or twelve times yearly. Other collection centers will let people donate twice weekly, but this may not be in your best health interests. There is some evidence that regular weekly plasma donation may affect health, energy and immunity. Getting $25 twice a week may not be worth it if you get sick or feel run down.
When you give a plasma donation, most centers say the total process may take up to two hours. People who donate frequently may be in and out of a center in about 45 minutes to an hour. You will need to snack after you give a donation and most centers have cookies and juice available. Bring something to read with you, and don’t forget to use the bathroom before you give plasma because you can’t stop the process in the middle.
Some people view plasma donation as something only people who are desperate do, but this is not the case. There are a lot of students who donate plasma, and some people will donate plasma to help ailing family members who need it. If you are considering plasma donation as an income source, do be aware you can only make a limited amount of income and many plasma centers have much looser restrictions than does the Red Cross. Ability to donate more frequently is not always in the best interest of donors.