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What is the Connection Between Anemia and Menstruation?

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  • Written By: Marisa O'Connor
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2016
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The connection between anemia and menstruation is that menstruation can contribute to or cause anemia. Menstruation, particularly heavy and frequent menstruation, can lead to quite a lot of blood loss. When so much blood is lost that there is a deficiency of red blood cells in the body, anemia is the result.

The connection between anemia and menstruation can be explained in part by understanding what anemia is. Anemia is a blood condition that results from an insufficient supply of healthy red blood cells. It is diagnosed from a blood test that comes back with low levels of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is an iron-rich protein in red blood cells that collects oxygen from the lungs and distributes it to other parts of the body.

Two types of anemia are iron deficiency anemia and sickle cell anemia. These two types are very different. People discussing a connection between anemia and menstruation are typically referring to iron deficiency anemia. A person with anemia doesn't get enough oxygen to her organs and muscles. Symptoms of this condition include fatigue and shortness of breath. Another common symptom is feeling chronically cold because iron is responsible for regulating body temperature.

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Another important aspect of explaining the connection between anemia and menstruation is understanding menstruation. Menstruation occurs monthly and is a healthy part of the female reproductive system. Once a month, the uterine lining is filled with blood in preparation for conception and pregnancy. A majority of the time, there is no conception, and so the blood lining the uterus is shed out through the vagina. The shedding of blood is called menstruation.

One of the ways anemia and menstruation are connected is that menstruating women are at high risk of anemia. During childbearing and therefore menstruating, years, women need plenty of iron. Over time, quite a lot of blood is lost from menstruation, and consequently a lot of iron in the form of hemoglobin is lost. Women who do not supplement their iron intake during menstruating years can become anemic.

Menstruation is one of the most common causes of anemia in women during childbearing years. Reports have shown that 10 percent of menstruating women are iron deficient, and an estimated 2 to 5 percent of those women have iron levels low enough that they are anemic. Usually, menstruation is only a secondary cause of anemia, with the primary cause being poor diet.

Irregular menstruation may increase the risk of anemia. Women with particularly heavy periods and women who regularly experience bleeding between periods should keep a careful eye on their iron levels. More blood lost means more risk for iron deficiency. Talk to a doctor about regulating menstruation or supplementing iron in order to avoid anemia.

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stoneMason
Post 3

@SarahGen-- Such a heavy menstruation cycle is not normal. There may be a hormonal imbalance causing it. Iron deficiency can even be a side effect of certain medications. But heavy menstruation can alone cause anemia, like the article said, so that has to be treated.

bluedolphin
Post 2

@SarahGen-- Your friend needs to be evaluated by a doctor. I'm not one and no one can give medical advice online anyway.

Does your friend have anemia symptoms all the time or just during menstruation? If the cause of her anemia is menstruation and nothing else, it can be treated with birth control pills and supplements.

I'm on a birth control pill due to menstruation caused anemia. I get all of those anemic symptoms during my menstruation. I usually can't even get out of bed. I'm not menstruating at all now while I'm on birth control, so the problem has fixed itself. I continue to take my supplements a few times a week however.

SarahGen
Post 1

My friend experiences frequent and heavy menstruation. And she has iron deficiency anemia symptoms. She always feels cold and tired and sometimes gets light-headed. She has a weird symptom of craving ice too. What can she do about this? She is taking an iron supplement but she said that it's not helping much.

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