What You Need To Know About Heavy Periods and Anaemia
According to research, approximately 9-14% of 100 women have heavy periods.
Experiencing regular and/or heavy periods (menorrhagia) can lead to iron deficiency anaemia. There are various symptoms and stages of anaemia. If you have anaemia the good news is that there are medical and natural treatments you can try to boost your iron levels.
It can be hard to tell how much blood you are loosing during your period and it can often feel as though you are losing a lot of blood, when in fact it is within a normal range (30-60 millilitres). A menstrual bleed is considered to be ‘heavy’ when a person with periods loses more than 80 millilitres of blood each cycle.
An easier way to tell if you’re experiencing heavy periods is if:
- You can’t maintain normal activities, either due to cramps or heavy bleeding
- Soak through a pad or tampon every 1-2 hours
- You double up on period protection
- Need to change your period protection during the night
- Bleed longer than a week
- You have blood clots
- You have symptoms of anaemia (see below for more info)
- Bleed through clothing
There are a range of reasons why you may be experiencing heavy periods although sometimes the cause is not known. However, there are some conditions that cause heavy bleeding, such as:
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Intrauterine Contraceptive Device (IUD)
If you have been having heavy periods then it’s best to book an appointment and speak with your doctor. It’s not always pleasant discussing periods with the doctor, but they are used to it and what’s important is your health.
If you do feel embarrassed, it may help if you write down some answers to questions you may get asked, such as how often are you bleeding for, how often are you changing your period protection, and are you experiencing cramps?
You may also want to write down some questions that you have for your doctor.
The Mayo Clinic explains that regular and/or heavy periods can cause anaemia as the number of circulating red blood cells lowers each cycle. The quantity of circulating red blood cells is measured by haemoglobin, a protein that enables red blood cells to carry oxygen to tissues. Anaemia occurs as your body attempts to make up for the lost red blood cells by using your iron stores to make more haemoglobin.
What Are The Symptoms Of Anaemia?
- Shortness of breath
- Pale skin
- Poor concentration
- Cold hands and feet
- Unusual cravings for substances, such as ice, dirt, or starch
How To Treat Anaemia?
There are both medical and natural ways to treat iron deficiency anaemia. Before a decision is made, it may be that your doctor will carry out further investigations to find out why you are bleeding heavily. This could include blood tests, a smear test, scans, and other medical procedures.
Treating Anaemia Medically
Your doctor may advise that you take iron tablets daily. They may also suggest taking forms of contraception or other medication to reduce the amount of blood you are losing each month.
Treating Anaemia Naturally
Increasing your iron levels through improving your diet is an option, however, it’s important to note that often iron tablets are needed alongside an iron-rich diet. Below are a range of foods that contain iron that won’t cost you a lot and are easy to buy: Turkey, Chicken, Pork, Liver, Red meats, Eggs, Tofu, Fish, especially shellfish, Beans, Leafy greens, such as spinach, Grains Dark chocolate
Eating strawberries or drinking a glass of orange juice after a meal is a good way to help your body absorb vitamin C and increase the absorption of iron.
Try to avoid drinking caffeine straight after a meal as it can decrease the amount of iron your body absorbs from your food.
Wrapping It Up
Heavy periods and the symptoms of anaemia can have a negative impact on your life. It’s important to speak to your doctor if your periods are heavy and/or you feel you may have iron deficiency anaemia.
There are various treatments available to reduce heavy bleeding and to improve your iron levels, such as increasing the amount of iron in your diet or taking medication. It’s important to talk these options through with your doctor to make sure you are choosing the best plan for you.