Bad health deters women from donating blood

While the overall number of blood donors in India has grown over the years, women constitute only a tiny 10 per cent share owing to health problems like pernicious anaemia and low haemoglobin levels or being underweight.

“It is not that woman do not volunteer to donate blood. They do, but most of them are not eligible to donate. For example, many of them have very low haemoglobin levels or suffer from pernicious anaemia (a condition in which the body can’t create enough healthy red blood cells),” said N K Bhatia, medical director, Jan Jagriti Blood Bank.

“Many even weigh less than 45 kg. For anyone between 18 and 60 years, the body weight must be 45 kg and above,” he said. A donor must have 12 mdg haemoglobin, which carries blood from the lungs to the rest of the body, including the brain. Most women fail to make the mark. June 14 is observed as World Blood Donor Day.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Database on Blood Safety (GDBS) 2011, 90 per cent of blood donors in India were men and only 10 per cent were women.
WHO had previously indicated that India reported the greatest increase in blood donors from 3.6 million in 2007 to 4.6 million in 2008. There are no figures for the subsequent years.

India faces a whopping 30-35 per cent blood deficit annually. The country needs around 8 to 10 million units of blood every year but manages a measly 5.5 million units.

“Whenever we have camps in schools and colleges many young girls come, but out of them less than 25 per cent are eligible to donate blood. Usually they are at a haemoglobin level of 11 from the prescribed 12. The women donors have less than seven per cent,” said Vanshree Singh, director, Indian Red Cross Society.

Women who have heavy blood loss during menstruation are also not allowed to donate. According to doctors, menstruating women lose about 80 ml of blood every month.

“There are women who volunteer even during menstruation. If the haemoglobin levels are adequate they can donate blood. Many women are deprived of protein and iron supplements,” Anuradha Kapoor, head of obstetrics at Max Hospital said. “Surprisingly, it is not just women from low income groups but even those from middle and upper middle income groups are anaemic .”

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