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Question:

Can heavy periods make you feel weak? If so, should I take an iron supplement or eat high-iron foods?

EXPERT ANSWER

Menstruation (having your period) can make you feel a bit tired the first day or two; especially if you are having some other symptoms like cramping, headache or feeling bloated. Weakness that is associated with heavy bleeding may be a sign of too much blood loss. If you need to change your pad every hour or more or if heavier bleeding lasts longer than the first few days, you need to see your healthcare provider. It is common for teens and young women to develop anemia (low red blood cell counts) due to not getting enough iron in the diet. However, the first step to determine the cause of your weakness is to see your healthcare provider to have a blood test that will look at several values of your red blood cells. From this, she/he can determine if you need an iron supplement and how much you should take.

MOM ANSWER

Lots of girls have a heavy day or two during their periods. Even though it may feel like you're bleeding gallons, average blood loss during a period is only 6-8 teaspoons. Hard to believe, isn't it? There just really isn't enough blood loss to cause weakness. If you're having consistently heavy and long periods, or if you're feeling weak, you should check with a healthcare professional. Personally, I wouldn't take iron supplements unless my doctor recommended it. I take a multivitamin every day and try to eat a balanced and nutritious diet. Some iron-rich foods like spinach, asparagus, salmon, and broccoli are favorites of mine, but I always incorporate them into my diet - not just while I'm on my period.

PEER ANSWER

Even though I know that it feels like you're gushing buckets of blood while on your period, it's actually only 6-8 teaspoons. I don't use any sort of supplement when I'm on my period, but I do make sure to get plenty of iron throughout the month because it's an important nutrient. Did you know iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency among women? Besides red meat, healthy sources of iron include beans, dark leafy greens (like spinach or kale), seafood, nuts, eggs, and tofu. During the first few days of my period, I'm always extra tired, but for me it's because of hormonal shifts, not blood loss or iron deficiency. I try to combat the fatigue with exercise, good nutrition (lots of whole grains, veggies, and lean protein!), and relaxing activities like baths. That said, if you constantly feel tired and weak on your period, definitely have a chat with your healthcare professional.

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This is not intended to be medical advice. Everybody is different so please make sure to consult your physician if you're having issues. Do not delay or refrain from seeking professional medical advice from your physician because of something you have read on this site.

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