I read somewhere that folic acid supplements are beneficial for women with heavy periods. How does folic acid help heavy periods?
Answers from Sandhya Pruthi, M.D.
Folic acid supplements won't relieve heavy periods. The problem with having heavy periods is that you can develop anemia — a condition in which you don't have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your tissues.
Many types of anemia exist, including ones related to vitamin deficiencies. But the type that's most commonly associated with heavy periods is iron deficiency anemia. With iron deficiency anemia, heavy periods lead to blood loss over a long time, which depletes your body's iron stores.
If your doctor suspects that you have anemia as a result of heavy periods, your doctor may recommend:
- A blood test, to check your iron level (known as the ferritin level) and confirm that the cause of your anemia is iron deficiency. You may also have a complete blood cell count, which includes the hemoglobin level. Iron deficiency anemia is indicated by either a low hemoglobin level or a low ferritin level or both.
- An iron supplement, to rebuild you body's iron stores.
- A daily multivitamin containing folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin B-12 and other vitamins that help build red blood cells may also be recommended by your doctor.
A number of conditions can cause heavy menstrual bleeding. A hormonal imbalance, uterine fibroids or certain types of intrauterine devices are just a few.
If you have heavy menstrual bleeding, talk with your doctor for more information and guidance.
July 01, 2016
- Iron deficiency anemia. Merck Manual Professional Version. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/anemias-caused-by-deficient-erythropoiesis/iron-deficiency-anemia. Accessed May 26, 2016.
- Schrier SL, et al. Treatment of iron deficiency anemia in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 26, 2016.
- Schrier SL. Diagnosis and treatment of vitamin B12 and folate deficiency. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 20, 2013.
- Hoffman BL, et al. Abnormal uterine bleeding. In: Williams Gynecology. 2nd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com. Accessed May 26, 2016.
- Kaunitz AM. Approach to abnormal uterine bleeding in nonpregnant reproductive-age women. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 26, 2016.
- Pruthi S (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. Rochester, Minn. May 27, 2016.