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Iron IngraphicAll About Hemoglobin

Hemoglobin transports oxygen from our lungs to the cells in our body. The hemoglobin molecule contains iron, an essential mineral found in our diet.

What Are Normal Hemoglobin Levels?

Normal hemoglobin levels are different in women and in men.

  • Females 120 g/L to 160 g/L.
  • Males 140 g/L to 180 g/L.

Canadian Blood Services tests each donor’s hemoglobin at the clinic and requires a minimum of 125 g/L (females) and 130g/L (as of March 5, 2017) for donation.

Why Does Canadian Blood Services Measure Hemoglobin Level?

We measure hemoglobin to protect you as a donor, and to ensure the quality of the red blood cells that will be transfused into blood recipients. It is important not to donate blood if the hemoglobin level is already low as this may cause you to become anemic.

What Is Anemia?

Anemia is defined as a hemoglobin level of less than 120 g/L in non-pregnant females and less than 130 g/L in males. Anemia is related to symptoms such as fatigue and lowered exercise tolerability.

If your hemoglobin level is below 110 g/L, you should see your physician for further testing. If anemia is present, you should not return to donate until the cause of the low hemoglobin has been identified and corrected.

Why Donating Blood can Cause Anemia?

Frequent blood donation does contribute to anemia as a whole blood donation results in a drop in hemoglobin of approximately 10 g/L. Healthy donors produce new red blood cells to replace donated cells. However, iron is essential to the production of new red blood cells, meaning if your iron levels are low, your body may have more difficulty replenishing your red blood cells.

How to prevent anemia due to blood donation?

Donors need to have an adequate amount of iron. Frequent donors (men who donate three or more times a year and women who donate two or more times a year) may need iron supplements to make up for iron lost in donations.

How Is Hemoglobin Measured?

We check each donor’s hemoglobin level at the clinic before every donation with an onsite finger stick test.

What If I Don't Meet Minimum Hemoglobin Criteria?

Low Hemoglobin

I Am A Healthy Female Donor, But Seem To Fail My Hemoglobin Test Every Second Time. What Should I Do?

Try to increase your iron intake and/or reducing your blood donation frequency. See the iron needs for blood donors section of our site for more information. We also suggest speaking to your pharmacist or physician about the need for iron supplementation.