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Iron-Deficiency Anemia and Your Period: 5 Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

iron-deficiency anemia and your period

What is iron-deficiency anemia?

If you don’t have enough iron, your body can’t make enough hemoglobin, the substance found in the red blood cells that allows them to carry oxygen to the tissues throughout your body. If you have anemia, chances are you often feel sleepy, weak and moody.

What causes iron-deficiency anemia?

It’s caused by a lack of iron in the body. Iron-deficiency anemia is often caused by heavy menstrual periods, gastrointestinal bleeding, peptic ulcers, hiatal hernias or colon cancer. You may develop iron-deficiency anemia if you lack iron in your diet or stop absorbing it. Or, pregnancy can cause this condition.

How does your period impact iron-deficiency anemia?

If you have a heavy blood flow during your menstrual cycle, you have a greater risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia. A heavy flow can cause excessive blood loss and deplete your body’s iron stores.

A heavy flow can cause you to soak a pad or tampon every hour for several hours. You may experience menstrual bleeding that lasts longer than a week and is accompanied by severe menstrual cramps and large blood clots.

How’s it diagnosed?

Your doctor will likely order a blood test to check the amount of red blood cells, hemoglobin and iron in your blood.

How’s it treated?

To treat iron-deficiency anemia, your doctor may recommend an iron supplement and/or dietary changes.

Foods rich in iron include:

  • Meat (poultry, beef and lamb)
  • Seafood (clams, sardines, shrimp and oysters)
  • Beans, legumes, nuts and seeds
  • Dark molasses and green leafy vegetables
  • Cereals, grains and breads that are fortified with iron

Consume iron-rich foods along with a source of vitamin C (citrus fruit/juice or tomatoes) to enhance absorption. Dairy products, coffee and tea decrease the body’s absorption of iron.

It’s important to remember that iron supplements and food changes won’t affect an underlying cause of excess bleeding. If heavy periods are behind your iron-deficiency anemia, your doctor may prescribe a birth control pill to help control your heavy flow.

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If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Women’s Health Arizona. As Arizona’s largest ObGyn group, we’re trained and solely dedicated to delivering the best ObGyn experience in convenient and comfortable settings around Phoenix. 

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