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Can Periods Lead To Anaemia? Who Is At Risk?

Anaemia is a critical health concern in India, affecting over 50 per cent of women. Usually, haemoglobin less than 12 gm/dL is considered anaemia, and women are at a higher risk for developing anaemia. Several reasons contribute to anaemia: poor nutrition, worm infections, heavy and abnormal menstruation, and pregnancy, where there is a higher need for haemoglobin in the blood [1].

Symptoms of anaemia

The signs of this condition vary depending on the cause; in some cases, you may not have any symptoms. However, the common symptoms of anaemia are fatigue, weakness, pale or yellowish skin, irregular heartbeats, shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, cold hands and feet and headaches. In most cases, the symptoms of anaemia are not noticeable and can worsen as the condition worsens [2].

Can Periods Lead To Anemia?

A heavy menstrual period, commonly known as menorrhagia, is one of the most common reasons women seek a gynaecologist's assistance. Over 355 million women in India menstruate, and about 60 per cent of them may require medical assistance at some point to cope with heavy periods [3].

The loss of blood during your period may result in the loss of more red blood cells than your body can produce. This can reduce the amount of iron in your body. Your body will then be unable to produce the haemoglobin necessary for oxygen transport throughout your body due to this condition.

Menstruating people are disproportionately affected by anaemia because they lose blood through their periods. For example, 29 per cent of non-pregnant women and 38 per cent of pregnant women worldwide are affected by anaemia [4].

When blood is lost every month during menstruation, the iron within those red blood cells is also lost. However, suppose monthly iron intake and absorption do not replace the iron lost during your period. In that case, you can end up with iron deficiency anaemia.

The extent of anaemia caused by heavy menstrual bleeding depends on many factors, including your diet and overall health. It may be possible to prevent iron deficiency anaemia by getting enough iron and other nutrients in your diet [5].

Signs Of Abnormally Heavy Periods

Although every woman's period differs, some are short, lasting only two to three days. In contrast, others last consistently for a week. Regardless of the length of your period, you should not ignore certain symptoms [6].

Heavy menstrual bleeding, also known as menorrhagia, can negatively impact your quality of life and overall health.

  • Bleeding that lasts longer than a week
  • Heavy bleeding that soaks through a pad or tampon every hour
  • Needing to change pads or tampons during the night
  • Passing blood clots

Who Is At Risk Of Getting Anemia Due To Periods?

People with heavy menstrual bleeding are more likely to suffer from iron deficiency anaemia [6]. Heavy menstrual bleeding is defined as a period exceeding 80 millilitres. Fibroids (abnormal growth of muscle tissue on the uterus), adenomyosis (a condition where endometrial tissue invades the muscular wall of the uterus), polyps (abnormal growths on the cervix or inside your uterus) or bleeding disorders are some of the reasons for heavy menstrual bleeding.

How To Manage Heavy Menstrual Bleeding?

The first step to finding relief from period-related anaemia and other symptoms is to obtain a diagnosis [7][8].

Women who wish to have children in the future may find hormonal birth control a helpful option. These birth control options can reduce or even eliminate menstrual flow and regulate your menstrual cycle.

Endometrial ablation is a common treatment for endometriosis, and hysterectomy is a permanent procedure to eliminate menstrual bleeding for women who do not wish to have children.

On A Final Note...

It is important to remember that dietary iron intake cannot always correct iron deficiency anaemia. The primary treatment for iron deficiency anaemia is oral iron tablets and supplements. Talk to your healthcare provider before taking any supplements. To ensure you are treating the appropriate type and cause of anaemia, there are numerous types of anaemia with different causes.

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