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Iron and Menstruation

Iron and Menstruation

Iron is a much-needed body nutrient. It plays a crucial role in producing adequate hemoglobin that carries oxygen to different body cells. And this nutrient becomes even more important during menstruation, especially when there is heavy blood loss. 

Periods are one of the most common causes of anemia. The typical menstrual cycle lasts for about 2-5 days. And during this time, a woman loses about 200 to 250 mg of iron per pint of blood. Women typically store very less amount in their body and when they menstruate, they lose an additional amount of the nutrient. This may sometimes lead to anemia. 

In this article, we will understand the relationship between menstruation and anemia. So let’s get started. 

What is Anemia?

Anemia is a health disorder that occurs due to a reduction in red blood cells or hemoglobin. This hemoglobin plays a crucial role in transporting oxygen molecules to various cells of the body. However, with fewer red blood cells, the body does not receive adequate oxygen and fails to function optimally. 

Anemia typically occurs because of three main causes: insufficient production of red blood cells in the body, a high rate of red blood cell damage, or loss of blood. 

Moving on, the anemia develops when there is not enough nutrient present in the body. This disorder is typically found in women. And the primary causes of this are as follows:

  • Pregnancy
  • Heavy bleeding during the period
  • Consuming a diet that is low in folate and vitamin B12
  • Existing chronic or genetic disorders

How Does Menstruation Lead to Iron Deficiency Anemia?

All menstruating women are unduly affected by anemia. And this is for the fact that they lose blood during their periods. 

When blood is lost, the iron present within this blood is also lost. And if a person is not able to replace the lost iron in the body through their diet or supplements, they may end up developing anemia. 

Women who experience very heavy bleeding during their menstrual cycle are more prone to anemia. And there are several reasons why someone experiences very heavy bleeding. Primarily, it is caused due to hormonal imbalances. However, there can be other reasons too. Some of the common causes include:

  • Polyps (anomalous growths on the cervix or the inside of the uterus)
  • Uterine fibroid (anomalous growth of muscle tissues on the uterus)
  • Adenomyosis (a condition where the endometrial tissue invades into the muscular uterus wall)
  • Endometriosis 
  • Scar tissue in the uterus
  • Ovulation issues
  • An intrauterine device
  • Bleeding disorder
  • Taking certain medications such as aspirin

Other Possible Causes of Anemia

Menstruation is not the only thing that may lead to this anemia. Many times, during pregnancy and breastfeeding, women experience an increased need for iron. And a failure to get an adequate amount of nutrients may lead to its deficiency in the body. 

Consequently, it is imperative for pregnant women to monitor their iron levels since a deficiency of the same can potentially harm the child and parent. During pregnancy, women need to increase their iron intake considerably to meet their body requirements. Besides, they must also intake vitamin C as that improves iron absorption in the body. 

In some cases, blood loss that occurs during childbirth may also lead to anemia. 

When to Consult a Doctor?

In case you experience any symptoms of anemia, you must see your healthcare provider immediately. He will run some diagnostic tests to evaluate your condition. After checking your medical and family history, he will perform a physical examination. If you complain of a heavy period, the doctor may even conduct a pelvic exam. 

But make sure to check up with your healthcare provider in the following cases:

  • When you often feel fatigued
  • If you experience shortness of breath during or after your period
  • If your menstrual cycle is longer than 7 days
  • If you excrete large blood clots during your period
  • If you need to change your sanitary napkin every 1 or 2 hours due to heavy flow
  • If you need to restrict your daily activities due to heavy period or because you feel excessively tired

Your doctor may also suggest taking some iron supplements to possibly get relief from anemia. 

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