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Dear plant,

I developed anemia and I am on iron supplements due to monthly blood loss. It was terrible for years. I am 47 now. I always went for my annual physicals AND gynecological exams like a good little patient. Several doctors that I went to over the years knew about my problem and never sought or suggested any treatment for me. It wasn't until this past February when my numbers finally hit some magic low number and when I had an episode of tachycardia in a parking garage and called 911 that anyone suggested iron supplements. Last year, one of my doctors started the process of figuring out what might be causing it, but tests take a long time to schedule, and you have to do them in consecutive order and while I was going through the tests, I was feeling worse and worse.

Even though I complained about the heavy periods, I guess its' to my PCP's credit that she didn't just accept that as the ONLY possible reason. It was a prime suspect, but she also ordered a bunch of GI tests which were no fun and things checked out fine. My gynecologist did an ultrasound, endometrial biopsy and a hysteroscopy. None of it fun. In the end, after all that, it was deemed that my anemia was caused by heavy monthly bleeding. Duh.

So as to the cause, there could be an abnormality like fibroids, cysts or polyps and you should have the tests that I had to rule them out. More than likely, you also have an estrogen dominance problem which many, many peri-menopausal women have. But one thing is certain, you must get to the bottom of what is causing the anemia and fix that, or iron supplementation will do little if anything to help you. Hard exercise is absolutely not what you want to be doing with anemia. Gently exercise yes (walking outside in fresh air is perfect), but your cells are not getting enough oxygen as it is and you are placing demands on your overtaxed blood that it can't deliver.

This is where I am now. I am on a low-dose BCP that is made for women in my age bracket. I can hear the groans and complaints already, but honestly, it stopped the hemorrhaging and the iron started doing it's thing and a mere 5 months later, I am feeling fantastic and my numbers are much better. And sure, I don't want to be on the pill forever. I am giving my anemia a full year to resolve and next February I will talk to my doctor about a procedure (probably what FLFLOWERGIRL had) to end the periods. And actually, all those tests I had were important to rule out any condition that might be worsened by taking hormones, so after all that I feel pretty safe taking it.

One last thing. Look into other types of iron supplements. Don't continue to take something that upsets your stomach or constipates. There are many options. It took me two or three attempts, but I found a great one that does very little to my tummy. There is a large national healthy foods type of grocery store chain (board rules don't allow us to mention) that has a supplements department and they have a money back guarantee on their supplements. If something doesn't agree with you, they will give you your money back. So start there. It's a very large well known store.

So good luck and keep us apprised of your progress.
Dear Flower, Chickie, Christine, and Moommin,

Thanks for your very helpful info! And happy birthday, Flower!

Yes, Christine, you read that right:

My doc has never referred me to a gynecologist, upon telling her, at each monthly appointment since last August, that I have been bleeding DAILY - often very heavily - since August, 2007. For eleven months now.

(Have any of you seen Margaret Cho, on a women's comedy special, saying, "If men could have periods, their apartments would look like scenes from a murder.") Sorry if TMI! My bathroom has looked like a laundromat for almost a year.

THANK YOU for confirming that this is a problem that should be looked into, and that "exercise" isn't the only solution. I could never believe that's all my doc would advise for me. Given that she doesn't seem like the kind of doc who would dismiss women's problems - she's definitely feminist - I kept wondering why she didn't tell me more, or send me to a gyn.

I will DEFINITELY go to a gynecologist, ASAP. Because I'm a student and partially disabled, I get public-health funded medical care. I had to let it expire when life was hectic during finals last month, so it will take 45 days to get approval again so I can see someone. But I will definitely go, promptly.

In the meantime, there is a nurse from my doc's clinic, who specializes in reproductive health and does Pap's, etc. who comes regularly to my school's health center to provide those services. I am going there tomorrow to discuss my anemia and B-12 defic. more with a nurse practitioner, will bring my lab results, and request seeing the reproductive care nurse there ASAP.

It is very helpful to get an overview from your posts re: what the possible sources and options are. I'm sorry for those of you have been through this, and appreciate your encouragement, and good news from ChickieLou and Flower regarding this. And Shirley, please keep us posted on how the embolization works for you.

Thanks especially for the advice to get to the source of the iron defic. and to not just take hormones without first finding out if there is some sort of growth such as polyps, fibroids, etc. Thanks for the tip about WFs supplement policy, Chickie.

Last night, I pulled out a copy of Kathy Smith's book (the fitness trainer), "Moving Through Menopause," and it was the most helpful explanation of menopause I've found so far - simple, but explains such things as age range for menopause, indicators, problems, polyps, fibroids, ablation, etc. and of course, exercise and nutrition, which was helpful.

I'm curious - are any of these possible problems dangerous, or just very inconvenient?

Regardless, this bleeding is definitely creating or contributing to the anemia, and must be stopped to stop the anemia. The fatigue and foggy thinking are a problem. Today I biked to school just 1 mile, but felt like I was going to fall off the bike the whole way there and home.

So I will definitely go see the reprod. nurse immediately, and a gyn ASAP.

In the meantime, last night I started drinking Femini-Tea again. It's available at natural foods stores, for balancing hormones. With my PCOS, I found drinking it helped induce periods, and am wondering if it will help balance hormones (in the other direction!). Today my period was quite light, but it's too soon to tell. Has anyone here used Femini-Tea?

(Trust me, that is just something I will try until I can get in to see the nurse and gyn. I will definitely go see them!)

I'm pissed at my doc for not helping me with a referral and better info. A year of exhaustion and poor school performance from not knowing what the heck was wrong.

Thanks so much, everyone,

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