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Replacing your iron after blood donation

Important information for female donors aged 18-45

If you’re a woman aged 18 to 45, you’re particularly susceptible to low iron due to menstruation and previous pregnancy. We recommend taking a short course of oral iron supplements after making a blood donation. 

When you donate blood, you give red cells which are rich in iron. Replacing this iron is important for your wellbeing.

Low iron can leave you feeling tired and may affect your concentration. If you have concerns about your iron levels, speak to your doctor

Learn more about blood donation, iron and haemoglobin

Information about iron supplements

Read the flyer to find out more about our recommendations for iron supplements. Please read it in full before purchasing iron supplements and consult your doctor if you have any concerns or questions.

Download flyer

FAQS for women 18-45

  1. Can I use a multivitamin instead of one of the listed supplements?
  2. Why do I have to tell the pharmacist if I’m taking medications?
  3. Why do I have to tell the pharmacist if I’m taking other supplements?
  4. Why isn’t the Lifeblood providing or paying for the supplements?
  5. Why don’t you recommend taking iron supplements after a plasma donation?
  6. If I don’t menstruate or haven't been pregnant recently, do I still need to take the iron?
  7. Why is this information coming now?
  8. If I take iron can I donate blood more often?
  9. My haemoglobin is normal, do I still need to take iron?
  10. Should I donate blood if I can’t, or choose not to take iron supplements? 
  11. Is it safe for me to donate blood?

Can I use a multivitamin instead of one of the listed supplements?

Many multivitamins contain iron, but most only contain a small dose of elemental iron (e.g. 5mg per tablet). Using a multivitamin would take a lot longer to replace the iron you donated than one of the supplements we recommend. If you’d prefer to use a lower dose iron supplement, speak with your pharmacist.

Why do I have to tell the pharmacist if I’m taking medications?

Iron supplements can interact with some medicines when taken at the same time. The iron may change the effectiveness of your medication, or your medication may affect how your body absorbs the iron. Your pharmacist can advise you if you need to take your iron supplement at a different time of day to your medicine.

Why do I have to tell the pharmacist if I’m taking other supplements?

Many supplements already contain iron, including those for pre-pregnancy. Your pharmacist can let you know how much iron, if any, is in your current supplement and help you decide if you need more to help replace what you’ve given during donation.  If you’re taking a pre-pregnancy supplement, you should continue taking it as it contains folate.

Why isn’t the Lifeblood providing or paying for the supplements?

Australian legislation doesn’t allow us to provide iron to donors, as only pharmacies can dispense these supplements. 

Why don’t you recommend taking iron supplements after a plasma donation?

The red cell loss during a plasma donation is much smaller. Our research shows that plasma donors usually aren’t at an increased risk of low iron.

If I don’t menstruate or haven’t been pregnant recently, do I still need to take the iron?

We’re recommending iron for all women aged 18-45 regardless of menstrual or pregnancy history. Speak with your doctor if you’re not sure about your iron requirements.  

Why is this information coming now?

We’ve been researching the impacts of blood donation on iron levels and which donor groups may be more susceptible to low iron. Our research has also helped us understand how effective and well-tolerated iron supplements are. We’re now pleased that we can provide this information to you as a donor. 

If I take iron can I donate blood more often?

No. For your health and wellbeing, it will still be 12 weeks after your last blood donation before you can donate again. 

If you donate plasma next time, though, you may be able to give sooner. Learn more about giving plasma

My haemoglobin is normal, do I still need to take iron?

After donating, you use iron to make haemoglobin for new red cells. Your body will absorb the iron it needs from diet but this can take many months. Taking a course of iron supplements can help you maintain healthy iron levels as well as your health and wellbeing,

Should I donate blood if I can’t, or choose not to take iron supplements? 

It’s important that you consider your own health and wellbeing. If you feel blood donation is not for you, you may like to speak to your GP or consider donating plasma which has a much smaller iron loss. 

Is it safe for me to donate blood?

Blood donation is safe for most people, however it may not be recommended depending on your individual health circumstances. Women 18 to 45 are particularly susceptible to becoming low in iron because of menstruation and previous pregnancy. Talk to your GP if you’re unsure whether blood donation is suitable for you.

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