Why You Should Not Ignore Tiredness during Your Period
09 July 2019 by - Dr Demetri C Panayi
Feeling fatigued and tired is a common occurrence that can be a direct impact of excessive physical activity, lack of sleep, unhealthy eating habits, or a side effect of some types of medication. Although most of these causes can be controlled and avoided, tiredness during the weeks leading up to (PMS) and during your period may be caused by an underlying health issue.
Many women suffer from menorrhagia, which is more commonly known as heavy periods. Around 1 in 3 women will seek treatment for the issue.
If heavy bleeding is interfering with your everyday life, you shouldn’t ignore it, as your body could be telling you there is something seriously wrong.
When Is a Period Heavy?
Though the degree of menstrual bleeding differs from woman to woman, a period can be considered ‘heavy” when the following symptoms occur:
- At least one sanitary towel or tampon is soaked through each hour
- A pad and a tampon is used at the same time
- Waking up in the night to change sanitary product
- Bleeding for more than a week
- Large blood clots
- Normal day-to-day activities are affected
Extreme Tiredness May Be An Underlying Medical Condition
Heavy menstrual bleeding often causes women to feel tired, which is normal due to the decrease in oestrogen levels, which occurs around this point in your cycle. Your energy levels will usually return to normal within a few days as your hormone levels begin to increase again. However, for some women, fatigue may last longer and be more extreme. Some women may find themselves completely sluggish and unable to properly carry out routine activities, signifying something more severe.
This should be investigated as there could, in fact, be a medical reason as to why you feel so fatigued during your period. You may generally be a person whose periods cause them to feel more tired than others, or you might have an underlying medical issue like anaemia or an underactive thyroid. The important point to make is that you should never ignore extreme menstrual fatigue.
Iron Deficiency Anaemia
The most common cause of iron deficiency anaemia is menorrhagia since there is often a significant amount of blood loss. The symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia include tiredness, pale skin, shortness of breath and heart palpitations.
A diagnosis can be given after carrying out a full blood test to determine whether the number of red blood cells is within the normal range. If diagnosed with anaemia, your doctor will normally advise you to take iron supplements and improve your diet to increase the amount of iron-rich foods you eat; to compensate for the loss of nutrients during heavy periods.
Where heavy periods are the reason for your anaemia, medication is typically prescribed by your GP. There are several treatment options available for menorrhagia, and these will vary from patient to patient depending on several factors, including severity, medical history and lifestyle. Where medication is ineffective, surgical treatment may be recommended.
Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism
The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland found in the neck, the function of which is to produce hormones to regulate the metabolism of your body naturally.
Some women who experience extreme tiredness may find that they have an underactive thyroid, which means your thyroid is not producing enough hormones. Symptoms include feeling exhausted and wanting to sleep all the time even if you have had a full ‘night’s rest. Other common symptoms include weight gain and feelings of depression. Around 15 in 1000, women in the UK will suffer from hypothyroidism.
The opposite might occur where the thyroid is overactive and produces an excess of certain hormones; this is called hyperthyroidism.
Your GP can determine if you have a thyroid problem by carrying out a thyroid function test, taking a blood sample to measure hormone levels. If diagnosed, hormone replacement tablets are prescribed and should be taken daily, with blood tests being carried out regularly to monitor hormone levels.
If you are experiencing heavy periods, ensure that you see your GP or a private gynaecologist to outline whether it is due to any underlying health issues or not.
Some ways to combat the feeling of tiredness during your period include drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration, eating healthy, getting at least 8 hours of sleep, and doing some physical activity or exercise – as it is the best fighter of fatigue.