By John Yaw Ansah (Information Officer, RTI)
Like every health activity (regular medical checkups to the hospital), blood donation is encouraged among people between 18 to 60 years because of its myriad benefits. However, several first-time donors express some fears and anxiety about giving blood. These expressions are mainly due to the lack of knowledge and discouraging cultural and religious beliefs about blood donation, especially in Sub Saharan Africa, as suggested by most researchers [see Akuoko et al. (2017)]. Therefore, making information about the blood donation process demystifies myths and fears related to this essential life-saving gesture. People (donors) become more motivated to donate when they are well informed about the process and the life-saving benefits of giving blood. Against this backdrop, the National Blood Service resolves to educate the public and its cherished donors on these misconceptions surrounding blood donations.
This article discusses one misconception that has to do with the fear that men who donate blood may become impotent or women can become infertile after donating blood.
Males or females may either suffer infertility as a medical condition. It usually occurs when a man or woman cannot contribute to conception or a woman is unable to carry a pregnancy to the full term after about 12 months of having unprotected sex. The causes may vary between men and women and usually include ovulation disorders, uterine or cervical abnormalities, fallopian tube blockages, endometriosis, etc. For men, the cause may be abnormal sperm production or problems with the delivery of sperm due to sexual issues, overexposure to certain environmental factors, and damage related to cancer or its treatment.
Impotence, on the other hand, primarily is the inability to achieve an erection, maintain an erection or ejaculate consistently. It is used interchangeably with Erectile Dysfunction (ED). Factors that result in ED include both emotional and physical disorders. The causes may vary from old age, diabetes, high blood pressure, pelvic surgery, spinal cord injury, and hormonal problems.
Over the years of blood donation practice, it has NOT been concluded or observed from any documented study that there is a possibility of blood donation leading to impotence in male blood donors or infertility in female blood donors.
Contrary to this popularly-held misconception, a recent publication by Prof. Alani Sulaimon Akanmu from Lagos University Teaching Hospital remarked that ‘male erectile dysfunction can result directly from iron overload when men do not donate, or their blood cannot be replenished’. It was, therefore, beneficial for men who donate because they are likely not to suffer from such complications or conditions.
To dispel this misconception, Asamoah-Akuoko et al., 2018 suggests that older blood donors with children could be used as change agents. In that, donors conceive and give birth to children during their years of active donation.
In conclusion, no evidence suggests that blood donation leads to impotence or infertility. Male/female donors can conceive and give birth to children during their years of active donation.