Am I Anemic? What Women Should Know About Iron Deficiency Anemia

Anemia is a condition that results from a lack of red blood cells, which are responsible for carrying oxygen to our body’s tissues and organs. Without adequate oxygen, it becomes difficult for the body to function properly, causing fatigue, headaches, and shortness of breath. While there are different types of anemia, women more commonly experience iron deficiency anemia. Without appropriate amounts of iron, the body is unable to create hemoglobin, a protein that enables the red blood cell to carry oxygen molecules. Common causes of iron deficiency anemia in women include heavy blood loss from menstruation, pregnancy, or simply a lack of iron from one’s diet.

Iron Deficiency Anemia and Heavy Bleeding

Blood contains iron, therefore excess blood loss, such as during a heavy period, can lead to iron-deficiency anemia. Blood flow during menstruation varies among women however, signs of excessive bleeding include:

  • Bleeding that lasts longer than a week
  • Needing to change pad/tampon every hour
  • Passing blood clots larger than a quarter

If you have heavy bleeding, talk to your doctor about appropriate treatment. Once your blood flow is regulated, you should no longer experience symptoms of anemia.

Iron Deficiency Anemia and Pregnancy

During pregnancy, the fetus uses its mother's red blood cells to grow and develop, meaning expecting women need almost twice as much iron as women who are not pregnant. To account for this need, the body typically uses red blood cells stored in the bone marrow. However, women who do not have enough iron/red blood cells stored may experience anemia.

Not having enough iron during pregnancy can cause side effects such as fatigue, vertigo, and rapid breathing. Additionally, it has been found that low iron levels can result in premature birth and/or low birth weight. Depending on the severity of your condition, your doctor may recommend supplements and/or adjustments to your diet.

Iron Deficiency Anemia and Diet

If you are neither pregnant nor experiencing a heavy period, yet have noticed symptoms of anemia, you may not be getting enough iron in your diet. In addition to fatigue and shortness of breath, other signs of iron deficiency include:

  • Unusual cravings for ice, dirt, or starch
  • Pale skin and brittle nails
  • Dizziness

If you believe you may be experiencing iron deficiency, visit your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment options. Typically, the easiest way to rectify iron deficiency is through diet. Foods rich in iron include:

  • Red meat
  • Beans
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Iron-fortified foods such as cereal

Additionally, you may want to consider consuming foods with Vitamin C, which helps with iron absorption.

Scheduling an Appointment

Anemia can have a significant effect on your day-to-day functioning. Therefore, if you are concerned about your iron levels, or believe you might be anemic, schedule an appointment today. Our practitioners are dedicated to helping you monitor and stay in control of your health.

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