So important. I have neither endometriosis nor painful periods (unless you count the debilitating migraines that sometimes accompany them, which are often considered just another one of those “imaginary,” “suck it up” types of health problems…), but my periods have always been heavy AF! It’s now over 20 years that I’ve been bleeding like a motherf*cker on a regular basis, and since my periods don’t come with pain, and there are no structural abnormalities, nobody ever bothered to tell me that bleeding like this was a legitimate health issue. I also (miraculously) don’t have anemia.
Alas, I’ve been losing hair for years and years — not the pattern typical to hormonal balding, just hairs falling out all over, all the time, at all different lengths — and it took until last year, in my thirties, for any doctor to bother looking at my iron levels (at least since age 21). Turns out, when he checked, my ferritin was dangerously low. Reason? Heavy periods, exacerbated by trying to be “healthier” on a vegetarian diet for over a decade. I’ve been experimenting with different supplements now for over a year, and iron supplementation is so f*cking rough on me, in multiple ways.
I wish there were SO much more education about stuff like this: that heavy bleeding is a risk factor; that periods don’t HAVE to be painful in order to cause problems; that ferritin can be dangerously low even if the body somehow heroically manages to guard itself from anemia; and that no, a reproductive-aged woman who’s losing her hair isn’t just being frivolous and vain or in denial about “something that just happens to some women” and SHOULD be offered some intelligently-targeted bloodwork to figure out why that is happening.
Because here’s the other VERY important piece to this: severe iron depletion has consequences that extend WAY beyond just the week or two per month that we are bleeding. It leaves you too fatigued for stuff like working out, it taxes your heart, it leaves you at greater risk of complications from respiratory infections and/or increases your risk of hemorrhaging in an emergency, and it can impair your fertility (at least until it’s treated… which can take a LONG while) and can jeopardize the physical and cognitive wellbeing of any children you do bear — in other words, its impacts can go into the next generation.
Medicine and society overall need to do much better by women. Thank you for bringing this up!