Iron deficiency anaemia and heavy periods

Do you experience heavy periods as well as constantly being tired?

Well then there’s a chance that you might be experiencing anemia due to menstruation. 

This blog will tell you everything you need to know about the effects of anemia on your menstrual cycle and vice versa. 

In order to understand the relationship between heavy periods and iron deficiency anemia, let’s first dive into the causes and symptoms of anemia. 

The basics of anemia 

What is anemia?

Anemia is the most common blood disorder globally. 

In fact, according to the World Health Organisation, 27% of the world's population experiences anemia. 

Anemia is caused when you don’t have enough red blood cells or your red blood cells don’t fully function as they should. 

Red blood cells contain hemoglobin - a protein that carries oxygen around your body. Oxygen provides energy to your cells and organs and ensures that they function properly. 

So, anemia occurs when your body doesn't get all the oxygen it needs. And this happens if you don't have enough red blood cells or the amount of hemoglobin in your blood is low. 

What are the different types of anemia? 

There are many different types of anemia, which are divided into three groups: 

  1. Anemia caused by blood loss
  2. Anemia caused by destruction of red blood cells 
  3. Anemia caused by faulty of decreased red blood cell production 

While some conditions of anemia can be mild and short-term, others are life-long. 

What are the symptoms of anemia? 

The symptoms of anemia can vary depending on which type of anemia you have, and how mild or severe your condition is. 

The most common symptom of anemia is experiencing tiredness. This happens because your body lacks the iron needed to make hemoglobin. 

When you’re low on hemoglobin, your body is unable to provide sufficient oxygen to your tissues and muscles - as a result depriving them of energy. 

Some of the other symptoms are: 

  • Pale or yellowish skin  
  • Irregular heart beats 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Faintness or dizziness 
  • Sweating 
  • Excessive hair fall  
  • Dry or damaged skin 

How do I find out if I am anemic? 

Anemia can be both inherited through parental genes or acquired over time.

If you have been experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms and can’t pin it down to any significant lifestyle changes, it might be worth getting checked for anemia. 

Your doctor will conduct a blood test to see your complete blood count (CBC) - specifically to see the levels of red blood cells and hemoglobin in your blood. 

Iron deficiency anemia and periods  

What is iron deficiency anemia? 

Iron deficiency anemia is when your body can't keep up its need for iron. 

While there are many different types of anemia, iron deficiency anemia is more common amongst women than men. 

Can heavy periods cause iron deficiency anemia? 

How does iron deficiency occur? Does heavy bleeding cause anemia? 

Well, one of the most common causes of iron deficiency anemia is having heavy periods on a regular basis.

Experiencing heavy periods commonly leads to blood loss over a long period of time, depleting your body’s iron storage. So iron deficiency anemia can be caused due to excessive menstrual bleeding. 

Can low hemoglobin cause heavy periods? 

No, low hemoglobin can’t cause heavy periods – rather, it is the other way around. 

Heavy periods can cause low hemoglobin levels as your body is low on iron - which is needed to produce hemoglobin. 

Can low hemoglobin cause irregular periods? 

You might be wondering about the effects of iron deficiency on periods.

While heavy periods mean a lot of flow, irregular periods can mean fluctuations in the consistency of how often your period comes, how long it lasts for, and changes in the flow every time you get your period. 

Over time, low hemoglobin means your blood doesn’t have enough oxygen to carry around your body, affecting your body’s overall blood flow. 

This can result in irregular periods. 

How do I know if I have heavy periods? How much iron am I losing? 

If you are someone that has to change your sanitary pad or tampon every 2-6 hours, then you have heavy flow during your periods. 

An average blood loss of 40ml during menstruation leads to a loss of 1.6mg of iron - this is completely normal and your body is able to recover that iron loss quickly. 

But more than 60ml of menstrual period per cycle can start depleting your body’s iron storage, which is when you would start showing symptoms of anemia.  

What are the treatments for iron deficiency anemia? 

If you are wondering “how can iron deficiency anemia be cured?”, the good news is that this is a treatable condition. 

The treatment for anemia can vary depending on the seriousness of your iron deficiency. 

Iron deficiency anemia can be treated with dietary changes and taking nutritional supplements - so increasing your iron intake through foods and taking iron supplements as guided by your doctor. 

It usually takes 3 to 6 months to restore your body’s iron levels. 

What are the best foods to eat for iron deficiency anemia? 

If you are someone with low iron because of heavy periods, it is important to eat foods with high iron content in them - especially while you are menstruating. This can include: 

  • Prunes and olives
  • Red meats such as lamb, pork and beef. The redder the meat looks, the higher it will be in iron. 
  • Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and kale

What is the best iron supplement for heavy periods? 

Iron supplements should be available over the counter at your local pharmacy. 

But before taking iron supplements, it is best to consult your doctor so you can understand how often and what dosage of the supplements you require. 

frequently asked questions 

Can anemia delay periods? 

If you have been experiencing extremely heavy periods over a long period of time, you may be at risk of depleted iron levels. 

The issue with excessive blood loss through periods is that iron can’t be replaced fast enough by our bodies and so, as a result there is not enough iron left to make sufficient red blood cells for your next period due to the blood loss from your previous periods.

So the answer to your question, can low iron affect your periods? is, yes. Anemia can cause a delay or irregularities in your menstrual cycle. 

If you are experiencing delayed or irregular periods for more than two consecutive menstrual cycles, it’s best to consult a doctor to understand the issue. 

Can iron deficiency cause hair fall? 

Yes, iron deficiency does cause hair loss as iron provides our hair with ferritin - which is a blood protein needed to ensure healthy hair growth. 

But don’t worry, hair fall is reversible with iron supplements. So if you are noticing unusual hair fall along with other symptoms of iron deficiency, we recommend consulting a doctor and getting your iron levels checked. 

Does taking iron make your period heavier?

No, this is very less likely.

If you have been advised to take iron supplements by your doctor, then that is because you are iron deficient. So taking the right dose of iron supplements as advised by your doctor will allow your body to have the right amount of iron. 

What is the best period product for heavy periods? 

Are you someone with heavy flow periods and have always struggled to find the right period product? Do sanitary pads leak for you within a few hours and constantly need to be changed? 

Well we have the perfect solution for you.

The Asan Heavy flow menstrual cup is designed for those of you who usually have to change pads every 2 to 6 hours. 

It is made with Class 6 Medical Grade silicone and is slightly firmer than the Light/Medium flow cup, to ensure that the suction of the cup remains in place inside your vaginal canal when your period flow is putting pressure on the cup. 

You’ll be able to keep the heavy flow cup in for 8-12 hours without having to worry about leaking while you’re at school, work or going on about your day. 

To learn more about how Asan has designed their menstrual cup sizing, read this blog about the Asan cup size chart. 

Ready to switch to the best menstrual cup for heavy flow periods? Shop here now.