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Menstruation and Iron Deficiency Anemia

By Charlyn Chu and Angelina Win

Most women have dealt with fatigue, bloating, and moodiness during their periods. After all, 90% of women of reproductive age experience several premenstrual symptoms. Imagine not only dealing with a heavy flow, but also iron-deficiency anemia.

Iron deficiency anemia stems from when the body is low on iron. This form of anemia can come from multiple different factors, but menstruation is often a key contributor. Women who suffer from heavy menstrual periods are more susceptible to forms of anemia that are caused by loss of red blood cells due to bleeding. Many groups are vulnerable to this kind of anemia, but women of childbearing age are especially at risk. This is due to blood loss during menstruation and the increased demands on blood supply during pregnancy.

(Image from VeryWell Health)

Some symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia are lethargy, dizziness, pale skin, and an abnormally rapid heartbeat. Shortness of breath, irritability, trouble with concentration, and insomnia are also common. Your physician is able to carry out testing if you are suffering from these symptoms along with heavy periods. A possible solution for this type of anemia is eating foods high in iron, such as spinach and meat.

Another option is taking iron supplements/pills, but they may cause side effects such as stomach discomfort, nausea, and constipation---all of which are already common period symptoms. If oral supplements do not work, iron infusions (delivering iron into a vein through a needle) is an effective treatment. While both of these alternatives can help your body build back its store of functioning red blood cells, you should take care of the deficiency gradually in order to avoid exacerbating existing symptoms.

(Image from Cleveland Clinic)

NIH conducted a study on menstrual bleeding among women of reproductive age. They found that 63.4% of women in that study had a present diagnosis of anemia. NIH also found that in “perimenopausal women presenting anemia, the most common cause reported is heavy menstrual blood loss.” Perimneopausal refers to the time one’s body makes a natural transition to menopause.

Although studies have revealed relationships between periods and anemia, there is still a surprising lack of information and remedies for the condition. Women who have recently found they have iron-deficient anemia caused by heavy periods often have difficulty finding the help they need. More research is needed to better understand the causes of this condition and to develop effective treatments.


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