People with bleeding disorders like hemophilia may need blood transfusions from time to time. Donating blood may not be possible due to safety concerns.

Hemophilia is a complex type of bleeding disorder that’s passed down genetically from parent to child. It requires someone to undergo treatment to replace the blood clotting factor that they’re missing to prevent them from having serious bleeding events.

While people with hemophilia may wish to donate blood to help others, experts generally discourage it due to the risks it poses.

Keep reading for more details on why people with hemophilia are often discouraged from donating blood and what potential risks donation may entail.

People with hemophilia will sometimes need blood transfusions, usually if they experience a severe bleeding episode. In fact, transfusions save lives.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that the blood supply is safer now than in the past because of numerous safeguards that have been put in place to protect recipients from “unsuitable blood and blood products.”

The FDA reports that donated blood is tested for seven different infectious agents. Plus, blood donors are screened upfront and asked about particular risk factors to eliminate the possibility of donating blood when they shouldn’t.

People with hemophilia may want to give back by donating blood themselves. However, it’s not recommended.

People with bleeding disorders, including hemophilia, are not eligible to donate blood. It’s called an indefinite referral.

If you have hemophilia, you are at risk for bleeding from the needle used during the blood connection process.

Hemophilia is not contagious. It can’t be passed from person to person like a virus.

Instead, it’s hereditary.

People develop hemophilia because they have inherited a gene mutation from a parent.

Specifically, it involves a mutation to a gene with the instructions for making the clotting factor proteins necessary for helping blood to clot.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the gene mutation that causes hemophilia A affects factor VIII, while the mutation that causes hemophilia B is known as factor IX.

Hemophilia isn’t the only bleeding or clotting disorder.

The most common bleeding disorder in the United States is von Willebrand disease (VWD), affecting about 1% of the population (about 3.2 million people).

People with von Willebrand disease don’t have enough of a protein called von Willebrand factor (VWF). It means that it takes them longer to form clots when they bleed, or the clots don’t form correctly. And it takes a lot longer for bleeding to stop.

Because of the risk of bleeding, experts typically advise people with von Willebrand disease not to donate blood, either. In fact, people with any type of bleeding or clotting disorder should not try to donate blood.

However, some blood donation centers will consider letting a person with von Willebrand disease donate blood if they have never had a major bleed or needed treatment for their disease.

It’s possible for some people to not yet realize they have hemophilia. People with very mild cases of hemophilia may not be diagnosed until later in life, usually after an injury or surgery causes excessive bleeding.

If they do have hemophilia and attempt to give blood, they could experience a bleeding episode at the donation center.

The CDC notes that most hemophilia cases are diagnosed in very young children, with a median diagnosis age of 36 months old.

The main risk associated with donating blood would be having a bleeding episode.

Can you get a tattoo if you have hemophilia?

Yes, you can get a tattoo if you have a bleeding disorder like hemophilia. But there are possible risks.

The larger and more extensive the tattoo is (and possibly even the location of the tattoo), the greater the likelihood of bleeding. Also, the risk of bleeding may depend on how severe your hemophilia is.

Talk with your healthcare team about your desire for a tattoo, and ask if they have any guidance for you. Some experts recommend getting a prophylactic infusion right before getting a tattoo.

Can someone with von Willebrand donate plasma or organs?

People with von Willebrand disease definitely benefit from other people who donate plasma. This is because people with severe von Willebrand disease often receive treatment from plasma-derived VWF-containing concentrates.

But, since people with this condition are typically discouraged from giving blood, you should ask if you are eligible to donate plasma.

It may be possible for some people with bleeding disorders to become organ donors. A medical team can assess their organs and tissues after their death to see if anything can be donated, if they have registered as organ donors.

How do they draw blood from patients with hemophilia?

The person drawing blood may use a butterfly needle — a smaller type of needle device — to minimize the size of the puncture and reduce the amount of bleeding.

Is it safe to travel with hemophilia?

People with hemophilia do not have to stay home. They can enjoy traveling, too. But it’s a good idea to first consult your doctor to make sure you’re healthy enough to travel.

You may also want to get some vaccinations before you travel, as the CDC recommends that people with bleeding disorders get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B. When it’s time to pack, bring along a letter from your doctor that describes your medical condition and your medications. Make sure you clearly label all your medications and supplies — and always pack them in your carry-on bag if you plan to fly.

Because hemophilia and other bleeding disorders are very complex conditions, it’s always a good idea to reach out to a doctor before doing anything that might increase your risk of bleeding.

While you may wish to help others, your doctor may suggest you consider other strategies as alternatives to donating blood.