Is there a link between heavy periods and anaemia?

Anaemia can be caused by a loss of blood and consequently heavy periods can lead to anaemia.

What is anaemia?

Anaemia is caused by low numbers of red blood cells or low levels of haemoglobin in your blood. Haemoglobin is found in red blood cells and carries oxygen around your body. 

Anaemia can affect anyone but it’s more common among women who have periods. Symptoms include: 

Often, these symptoms appear gradually over time. If you notice that you have one or two of these symptoms, you may have anaemia and should see your GP.  

While there are several different types of anaemia, iron-deficiency anaemia is the most common type and can be caused by a poor diet or blood loss. As women lose blood during their periods, they can be more prone to iron-deficiency anaemia, especially if their periods are heavy. 

What is a heavy period?

Experiencing heavy periods can put you at greater risk of iron-deficiency anaemia. Typically, a period is considered heavy if you need to use two different types of sanitary product at the same time, soak through a sanitary product within an hour or if your period lasts longer than seven days. 

If your periods are heavy, you may:

  • Bleed through your clothes and/or onto your bed linen
  • Pass clots in  your menstrual blood that are larger than 2.5cm
  • Need to change your normal lifestyle to accommodate your heavy bleeding

Heavy periods can be caused by several underlying conditions, including endometriosis or fibroids. See your GP if you suddenly develop heavier periods than usual as you may need treatment for an underlying condition.

Heavy periods and anaemia

Not only can heavy periods be challenging to cope with. Losing a lot of blood in a short space of time can also affect the levels of iron in your body, leading to anaemia.

If you experience any of the symptoms of anaemia during or after your period, your GP may suggest a blood test to measure your iron levels. If your levels are low, you may be prescribed an iron supplement to bring your iron levels back up and stop your symptoms.

If you’re prone to heavy periods you may be recommended iron supplements as a long-term solution in order to prevent anaemia in the future. You may also need to have regular blood tests every few months to monitor your iron levels.

How can I manage anaemia?

If heavy periods are causing your anaemia, there are lifestyle changes you can make to help you manage it. 

As well as iron tablets, it’s a good idea to look at your diet. Incorporating iron-rich foods and foods that help with iron absorption (eg foods that are high in vitamin C) into your diet can reduce your chances of becoming anaemic when you get your period. 

Good sources of iron include:

  • Beans — such as chickpeas, edamame and red kidney beans
  • Broccoli and spinach
  • Dried apricots and nuts
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Liver, red meat and shellfish
  • Soybean flour, tofu and quinoa

If you have very severe anaemia or if changes to your diet and taking supplements don’t help, your GP may recommend medication to increase your production of red blood cells or a blood transfusion. If your anaemia is caused by an underlying health condition, you may need treatment for this condition too.

We hope you've found this article useful, however, it cannot be a substitute for a consultation with a specialist

If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on the subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Spire hospital.

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Author Information

Cahoot Care Marketing

Niched in the care sector, Cahoot Care Marketing offers a full range of marketing services for care businesses including: SEO, social media, websites and video marketing, specialising in copywriting and content marketing.

Over the last five years Cahoot Care Marketing has built an experienced team of writers and editors, with broad and deep expertise on a range of care topics. They provide a responsive, efficient and comprehensive service, ensuring content is on brand and in line with relevant medical guidelines.

Their writers and editors include care sector workers, healthcare copywriting specialists and NHS trainers, who thoroughly research all topics using reputable sources including the NHS, NICE, relevant Royal Colleges and medical associations.

The Spire Content Hub project was managed by:

Lux Fatimathas, Editor and Project Manager

Lux has a BSc(Hons) in Neuroscience from UCL, a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and experience as a postdoctoral researcher in developmental biology. She has a clear and extensive understanding of the biological and medical sciences. Having worked in scientific publishing for BioMed Central and as a writer for the UK’s Medical Research Council and the National University of Singapore, she is able to clearly communicate complex concepts.

Catriona Shaw, Lead Editor

Catriona has an English degree from the University of Southampton and more than 12 years’ experience copy editing across a range of complex topics. She works with a diverse team of writers to create clear and compelling copy to educate and inform.

Alfie Jones, Director — Cahoot Care Marketing

Alfie has a creative writing degree from UCF and initially worked as a carer before supporting his family’s care training business with copywriting and general marketing. He has worked in content marketing and the care sector for over 10 years and overseen a diverse range of care content projects, building a strong team of specialist writers and marketing creatives after founding Cahoot in 2016.