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Can a heavy period lead to anemia?

Updated: Nov 13, 2019


Have you heard someone with an iron deficiency talk about how they often feel fatigued or how they may have to get up slowly to avoid feeling dizzy or light headed? With more than 3 million cases in the U.S., iron deficiencies are very common. However, have you ever thought about how being on your menstrual cycle can make you more susceptible to having an iron deficiency? For those that deal with heavy menstrual bleeding every month, the chances of them experiencing low iron is high which can be hard to pinpoint due to some of the symptoms of anemia mirroring a regular menstrual cycle, like fatigue. You may be wondering, what is considered “heavy” menstrual bleeding? Well, there’s a simple answer: heavy menstrual bleeding is losing more than 80 milliliters of blood during menstruation.


While it’s not exactly easy to get an exact measurement for the amount of blood being lost, those with heavy menstrual bleeding every month are usually able to tell if they experience the following symptoms: expelling large blood clots, needing to use double protection, having to change your pad every 2 hours or less, excessive bleeding that interferes with normal routine and bleeding through clothes even when wearing a pad.

When blood is lost every month during menstruation, the iron within those red blood cells is also lost. The more red blood cells lost means the greater the chance of anemia.


So, what exactly is anemia? It’s the reduction in red blood cells or hemoglobin within the body. Hemoglobin is an iron containing protein within your blood cells, your body needs iron to make hemoglobin. In short, there is an insufficient amount of iron in the body. If monthly iron intake and absorption doesn’t replace the iron lost during your menstrual cycle (heavy bleeding), you can likely develop iron deficiency anemia.


The symptoms of iron deficiency anemia can include tiredness, weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, poor concentration and light headedness. A good way to ensure that you’re increasing your iron intake through your diet is by taking heme iron or nonheme iron. Heme iron contains hemoglobin and is only found in various meat sources, while nonheme iron is found in various plant sources. So, according to your dietary needs, you have a way to ensure that you’re getting the iron intake that you need to help with insufficient iron levels in the body.


What causes anemia and how can it be diagnosed? The disruption of life cycles of the red blood cells causes anemia. Specifically speaking, red blood cells circulate and deliver gases throughout the body, their parts are recycled within the body and when these cycles are disrupted you develop anemia. Most often, anemia is diagnosed with blood tests. Women lose twice as much blood as normal when they deal with heavy menstrual bleeding. Iron supplements can improve the quality of life for women with heavy menstrual cycles.


Remember, it’s important to always pay attention to your body!


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