Anaemia and periods — How they're related

All Woman

AS if symptoms such as cramps, headaches, backaches, bloating, and the general discomfort of having a heavy flow each month aren't enough, you may have another period-related issue to deal with — anaemia. Unlike PMS symptoms that clear up within a few days, however, this problem can persist right throughout your cycle and even worsen over time if left untreated. All women who menstruate are at an increased risk of developing anaemia, but those who have long and/or heavy periods are more likely to be affected by it.

Consultant obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Jordan Hardie explains to All Woman what is considered to be a heavy period.

“Heavy menstrual bleeding is noted to be greater than 80 ml of blood loss during the menstrual flow,” he said, explaining that this usually means soaking through a pad or tampon in two hours or less.

“It is also considered to be heavy if the bleeding is heavy enough to impact daily activities such as work or school, or you start to have symptoms caused by the heavy bleeding.”

A long period, he said, is a flow that lasts for more than seven days. Women who have long and heavy periods are more likely to suffer from anaemia because they lose a lot of blood each month.

“Anaemia occurs when there is a decrease in the concentration of haemoglobin,” the doctor explained. “Haemoglobin is the compound that transports oxygen in the blood. During menstruation the increased blood flow leads to decrease in the concentration of haemoglobin in the blood.”

He pointed out that while there are many different types of anaemia and symptoms can range from mild to severe, iron deficiency anaemia is the one that affects many women who have heavy menstrual bleeding.

“The symptoms of anaemia include easy fatigability, palpitations (heart racing), feeling lightheaded, or loss of consciousness (fainting),” he said.

“The long-term side effects of anaemia will depend on the severity of the anaemia and if there are any other illnesses. Patients who have a long-standing history of severe anaemia are at an increased risk of heart failure and kidney disease most commonly,” he noted.

Dr Hardie recommends that in order to effectively combat anaemia caused by heavy menstrual bleeding, a woman should find out what is causing such a heavy flow in the first place.

“Any woman who believes she is having heavy menstrual bleeding should see her gynaecologist. During the consultation a full history, examination, and any relevant tests may be requested,” he advised.

He noted that as an initial treatment option the doctor may prescribe oral iron tablets to alleviate symptoms.

“Women with heavy periods can also adjust their diets to include food with high iron content such as green leafy vegetables (callaloo, kale, spinach), beans, seeds and liver,” he added. “Vitamin C improves the absorption of iron in the gut, so increasing intake of fruits such as oranges will assist as well.”

Dr Jordan Hardie is an obstetrician/ gynaecologist located at 37 Windsor Avenue in Kingston. For more information e-mail drjhardieOBGYN@gmail.com or call 876-505-5829.

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