Iron and menstruation
The onset of menstruation, results in regular monthly periods that are a huge milestone in a girl’s life, and is an important part of what it means to be a woman.
Aside from the monthly inconvenience, a period puts quite a strain on the body and its iron stores. 1
During your period you lose blood, which contains iron. 1 This is one of the principal reasons for increased iron demand in women of reproductive age. 1 This loss of blood means that women need up to twice as much iron from their diet as men. 1 If the amount of iron in your diet is not enough to match the amount of iron lost through your period, you could become iron deficient, which can lead to iron deficiency anaemia (IDA). 1
Heavy menstrual bleeding (HMB) and iron deficiency (ID)
Exceptionally heavy periods known as heavy menstrual bleeding, or HMB, affects up to a third of women of reproductive age, and is the most common cause of IDA in the developed world. 2
This has an impact on their quality of life, whereby symptoms of IDA cause weakness, fatigue and mood swings to name a few. 2
Are my periods unusually heavy?
It may be hard to know if your periods are worse or heavier than your friends’ and difficult to explain to your doctor what an impact they have on your life.
The questions below may help you judge how heavy your periods are, and give you a starting point for a conversation with your doctor. 3
- Do you need to use double sanitary protection?
- Do you sometimes leak through your clothes or onto your bedding?
- Do you pass large blood clots?
If you answered yes to two or more of the above questions you may have HMB. 3 Talk to your doctor as they may be able to offer you treatment to ease some of these symptoms. If you are losing a lot of blood, you should check your iron stores as you may be at risk of ID and IDA. 1,2
- Abbaspour N, Hurrell R, Kelishadi R. Review on iron and its importance for human health. J Res Med Sci 2014;19(2):164-174.
- Liu Z, Doan Q V, Blumenthal P, Dubois RW. A systematic review evaluating health-related quality of life, work impairment, and health-care costs and utilization in abnormal uterine bleeding. Value Health 2007;10(3):183-194.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Blood Disorders in Women. Heavy Menstrual Bleeding. [online] 2016 Nov 28 [cited 2017 Sep 15]. Available from: URL: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/blooddisorders/women/menorrhagia.html.
- Geisser P. Safety and Efficacy of Iron(III)-hydroxide Polymaltose Complex. Arzneimittel-Forschung 2007;57(6a):439-52.
- Borbolla JF, Cicero RE, Dibildox M, Sotres D, Gutiérrez R. Iron hydroxide polymaltose complex vs iron sulphate in the treatment of iron deficiency anaemia in infants. Revista Mexicana de Pediatria 2000;57(2):63-67.
- Yasa B, Agaoglu L, Unuvar E. Efficacy, Tolerability, and Acceptability of Iron Hydroxide Polymaltose Complex versus Ferrous Sulfate: A Randomized Trial in Pediatric Patients with Iron Deficiency Anemia. Int J Pediatr 2011;2011:1-6.