6 Symptoms of Anemia From Heavy Periods

Last updated 03.21.2024 | by Sabrina Johnson | 9 Minutes Read

This article has been reviewed and fact checked by Dr. Karen Pike, a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. Read more at our medical disclaimer page.


There’s no denying the fact that anemia is more common among women than males. Menstrual bleeding is deemed one of the main reasons that may lead to anemia. Pregnancy and childbirth are the other reasons that may put women at a higher risk of iron deficiency anemia. The CDC mentions that around 3 million people in the United States have anemia, with women being more vulnerable to it.

A study conducted in 2023 deduced that around 40% of nonpregnant females in the United States between 12 and 21 years were iron-deficient. Approximately 6% of the population may eventually develop iron deficiency anemia. Coming to the topic another reason why women develop anemia is because of heavy bleeding during menstruation.

Heavy periods are quite a common phenomenon, and going by the data available, it affects one in every five women in the United States. A friend would bleed so heavily during most of her cycles that sometimes she would end up being tired, dizzy, and weak. Once or twice, it even manifested into anemia. Heavy periods can cause anemia. Do you face heavy periods quite often? Are you concerned that too much blood loss could put you at risk of anemia? Do give this article a read. I have touched upon aspects like the symptoms of anemia from heavy menstrual bleeding and the ways to manage the same. Read on to know more.

How Do You Identify That You Have Heavy Or Abnormally Heavy Periods?

Before we mention anemia, knowing how to identify if you are having a heavy menstrual period is essential. These are some ways in which you would understand that you are bleeding more than usual. Take a look:

  • The amount of blood that has been shed is over 80 ml.
  • Your menses may last for around 7-8 days in totality.
  • You need to change tampons or pads every hour for many hours consecutively.
  • You need to change pads even at night.
  • You pass large clots or clumps.
  • You feel fatigued during your periods.
  • You can’t perform your daily chores easily, and it may even keep you away from work or school.

Why Do Periods Cause Anemia?

Menorrhagia is the medical term for prolonged or heavy menstrual bleeding. There are a host of factors that cause anemia during heavy periods. Not all menstrual bleeding manifests into anemia. Many aspects come into play, like your overall health and diet. When you have heavy menstrual bleeding, it results in a poor quality of life. Heavy menstrual bleeding lowers iron levels excessively, resulting in iron deficiency anemia.

6 Symptoms Of Iron-Deficiency Anemia Due To Heavy Menstrual Bleeding

Now, let me walk you through the common symptoms you may experience when there is a drop in your blood’s hemoglobin and iron levels. Some of the symptoms of anemia include:

  1. Excessive fatigue and weakness: When your body has insufficient iron, it’s unable to produce adequate amounts of hemoglobin that transport oxygen from your lungs to other parts of the body. That’s why when your iron levels are low, your system doesn’t get enough oxygen. So, you may often feel fatigued and less inclined to do your daily activities.
  2. Shortness of breath: You feel drained when your body doesn’t receive sufficient oxygen-rich blood. This could be one of the reasons why you’re experiencing shortness of breath.
  3. Dizziness: When your system doesn’t get sufficient oxygen, it affects all the organs. Your brain isn’t spared, either. This could cause spells of dizziness. Another reason you may feel dizzy is your body attempts to make up for the low oxygen levels.
  4. Yellowish or Pale Skin: If you have been diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia and notice your skin turning pale or sallow, you may attribute it to the lessened oxygen supply to your body.
  5. Headache: According to a 2022 study, around 80% of individuals with iron deficiency anemia may experience headaches. According to some experts, iron plays a significant role in making serotonin, which controls your mood and sleep-wake cycle. The fluctuation in iron may cause serotonin imbalances, leading to headaches. Another explanation is that lessened iron levels lower the RBC levels, hampering brain function. The outcome is a series of headaches. When you are iron-deficient, you will mainly experience a dull ache, dizziness, and lightheadedness.
  6. The feeling of Coldness: Anemia sufferers often have cold hands and feet. If heavy bleeding has led to a drastic decrease in your iron levels, it could cause poor blood circulation. This results in an overall feeling of coldness.

Reasons for Increased Blood Loss During Periods

Reasons for Increased Blood Loss During Periods

When you experience heavy periods and a lot of blood is lost, it is never a comforting feeling. It could be fine if it’s a matter of one cycle, but if it happens repeatedly, it isn’t something you should ignore. Here are some underlying causes that could result in heavy bleeding.

  • Polyps
  • Uterine Fibroids (30% of the patients with fibroids have reported heavy bleeding)
  • Endometriosis
  • Ovulation issues
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Adenomyosis
  • PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome)
  • As a side effect of blood thinning medication and anti-coagulants
  • Intrauterine devices like copper IUDs.
  • Adenomyosis (causing your uterine lining’s endometrial tissues to grow in the uterus wall)

How Do You Treat Iron Deficiency Anemia Caused By Heavy Periods?

The treatment for iron deficiency anemia from heavy bleeding depends on the cause. To address the issue of heavy bleeding, your doctor may prescribe hormonal birth control pills. To address the issue of low iron levels, your doctor may even advise you to take iron supplements and vitamin B12 to rebuild your body’s iron stores. Another common remedy that almost all patients with anemia are advised be it from heavy bleeding or not, is to include iron-rich foods in their diet.

However, in the case of recurrent and severe bleeding, which is a result of any underlying condition, surgical procedures could be recommended.

Sometimes, abnormal bleeding can be corrected with a hysterectomy, especially if it is because of endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or adenomyosis. In most cases, hysterectomy is considered when other treatment procedures cease to work. Hysterectomy isn’t a good option for women of childbearing age unless there is an emergency.

Abnormal uterine bleeding during or in between periods can sometimes be managed with endometrial ablation. This procedure removes the tissues lining the uterus and helps to lessen or stop heavy bleeding. However, it isn’t recommended for women of reproductive age.

Tips to Prevent Anemia Due to Heavy Bleeding

I mentioned the treatment procedures that one may need to control heavy bleeding during their menstrual cycle. However, when you maintain caution, you can prevent iron deficiency anemia to a greater extent. Here are some tips:

  • You must take care of your iron intake and eat more iron-rich foods. Foods rich in iron include spinach, red meat, turkey, shellfish, quinoa, dried fruits, whole-meal pasta, etc.
  • You cannot ignore the legumes like lentils, baked beans, chickpeas, and mixed beans. Then, you have dark, leafy greens like silverbeet, broccoli, and spinach.
  • Add Vitamin C-rich foods to your diet. If you are wondering how vitamin-rich foods will help, they effectively absorb iron from your body. The foods that top the list are orange, lemon, strawberry, kiwi, guava, kale, lemon, and Brussels sprout.
  • During mealtime, avoid drinking tea and coffee as they make it difficult for your body to absorb the essential nutrients from food sources.
  • You must watch out for the dosage if you are on calcium pills. Increased calcium intake may come in the way of your body’s iron-absorbing capacity.

When to See a Doctor?

If you have heavy bleeding and the symptoms mentioned below, make sure you consult the doctor promptly. Heavy bleeding may indicate a medical condition that needs to be addressed immediately for prompt treatment. Here are a few red flags to watch out for:

  • Feelings of dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness during your peri
  • You are unable to do your daily activities with ease due to fatigue and weakness
  • Your menstrual cycle exceeds seven days
  • You need to change sanitary pads or tampons every hour or two

Frequently Asked Questions

How does the diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia happen?

The doctor will first ask you about your family and medical history. If the anemia is due to increased bleeding, the healthcare provider will also conduct a pelvic exam. Any diagnosis of anemia is complete without a CBC or Complete blood count test.

This way, your provider will get an insight into the RBC (red blood cell) count. The initial bloodwork will also account for the amount of iron stored in your cells. Besides the primary test, your doctor may ask for some other bloodwork to determine the kind of anemia you have.

What are the other reasons for anaemia?

Besides heavy periods, one could even have anemia due to decreased iron or vitamin B12 levels, internal bleeding, bone marrow disease, gestational diabetes, chronic diseases like kidney ailments, and certain autoimmune conditions. Sometimes, anemia even develops during pregnancy.

Can adolescent girls in their menarche develop anemia?

A study conducted on 272 participants with a mean age of 13.2 years showed that adolescent girls who had just begun their menses were at risk of anemia by around 71.7%. That’s quite a number.

Can low iron levels affect a pap smear test?

It isn’t unknown to many that a pap smear is used for cervical cancer screening. In women over 30, this test is done in combination with the HPV (Human papillomavirus) test to diagnose cervical cancer. Women who have low B12 levels are at risk of false positive results of pap smear.

Conclusion

To sum it up, anemia occurs in quite a large number of women, mainly because their bodies don’t produce enough iron. Your periods can lead to anemia. If that’s the case, you must identify the symptoms immediately and address them at the earliest. A healthy lifestyle and a proper diet may lessen the risk of iron deficiency anemia.

Author

  • Sabrina Johnson

    Meet Sabrina Johnson, a compassionate author and a seasoned expert in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is a driving force behind Simply Menopause, where her extensive medical knowledge and empathetic nature come together to empower women in their menopausal journey. Sabrina offers culturally sensitive guidance and support through her approachable writing, making her a trusted friend on the path to menopause wellness.