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

iron-deficiency anemia and your period

Do you frequently feel tired and weak? Are your periods heavier than normal? Keep reading to find out more about iron-deficiency anemia and how this common condition is treated.

Question #1: What is iron-deficiency anemia?

Answer: Anemia is a condition characterized by a lack of healthy red blood cells. Iron-deficiency anemia is a common type of anemia caused by a lack of iron in the body. 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.

Question #2: What causes iron-deficiency anemia?

Answer: Iron-deficiency anemia is often caused by blood loss from the following: heavy menstrual periods, gastrointestinal bleeding, peptic ulcers, hiatal hernias or colon cancer. Also, you may develop iron-deficiency anemia if you lack a sufficient amount of iron in your diet or stop absorbing iron. Pregnancy can also cause this condition.

Question #3: How does your period impact iron-deficiency anemia?

Answer: If you have a heavy blood flow during your menstrual cycle, you have a greater risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia. Why? Because a heavy flow can cause excessive blood loss, depleting your body’s iron stores.

So how do you know if your period is too heavy? A heavy flow can cause you to soak a pad or tampon every hour for several hours. You may also experience menstrual bleeding that lasts longer than a week. This bleeding may be accompanied by severe menstrual cramps and/or large blood clots that are passed through the menstrual blood.

Question #4: How is iron-deficiency anemia diagnosed?

Answer: If you think you’re getting fatigued or foggy, visit your doctor to be screened for anemia and tested for an iron deficiency. Your doctor will likely order a blood test to check the amount of red blood cells, hemoglobin and iron in your blood.

Question #5: How is iron-deficiency anemia treated?

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

Foods rich in iron include the following:

  • Meat (e.g., poultry, beef and lamb)
  • Seafood (e.g., 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

You should consume iron-rich foods along with a source of vitamin C (e.g., citrus fruit/juice or tomatoes) to enhance absorption. Remember that dairy products, coffee and tea are known to 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 heavy bleeding is causing anemia or other issues that are affecting your lifestyle, contact your AOA provider for many options to help improve your life and health: call 602-343-6174 or visit