Iron & Irregular Menstrual Bleeding

Abdominal pain
A woman in a bra top holds a hot water bottle to her tummy. (Image: PeJo29/iStock/Getty Images)

Heavy bleeding during menstruation is called menorrhagia. Many women at some point in their reproductive years have experienced heavy bleeding during their period, according to the National Collaborating Centre for Women's and Children's Health. This can occur due to hormonal imbalances, uterine growths, abnormal ovary functioning and pregnancy complications. Menorrhagia can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days and may be recurrent monthly.

Causes

Heavy bleeding during the menstrual cycles can occur from irregularities in estrogen and progesterone, which are the hormones responsible for triggering menstruation and ovulation. Irregularities in the hormone levels can cause a buildup of the endometrial lining in the uterus. When this thick lining sheds it is normally accompanied by heavy bleeding. Another cause of heavy bleeding during the menstrual cycle is uterine fibroids. These are small benign growths that form in the uterine tissue, uterine lining or uterine muscle. These growths can be as small as a seed or large enough to fill the entire uterus. In severe cases, a woman may experience prolonged bleeding and may require a hysterectomy to remove the entire uterus. Other causes of heavy bleeding include polyps, which are small uterine growths that extend from the uterine lining into the uterine cavity; adenomyosis, which causes the uterine lining to grow within the uterine muscle; and the use of intrauterine devices.

Symptoms

Symptoms of menorrhagia are heavy blood loss -- 81 milliliters or more -- at any point during your menstrual period. Soaking a sanitary pad or tampon every hour, heavy bleeding that contains large blood clots, a period that lasts more than seven days and fatigue with shortness of breath are all symptoms of menorrhagia.

Complications

Heavy bleeding over even a short period of time can cause severe pain and iron deficiency anemia. The blood contains a protein called hemoglobin; the main component of hemoglobin is iron, so when too much blood is lost, iron is lost as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anemia causes weakness and fatigue.

Treatment with Iron

If you are diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia you may be directed to take iron supplements. These iron supplements can be purchased over-the-counter in the form of liquid, capsules or as part of a multivitamin. Even if your iron levels are low, but you are not anemic, your doctor may advise you to take iron supplements to prevent anemia.

Warning

Do not double up on iron supplements. Taking too much iron can result in iron toxicity, which can cause serious health complications such as organ damage due to iron accumulating in the organs and heart attack.

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