How COVID-19 vaccines can affect periods

OWhen clinical trials began testing the various COVID-19 vaccines, one question participants weren’t asked was whether they had experienced any changes in their menstrual cycle or unexpected bleeding after being vaccinated.

Soon after the vaccines were rolled out to the public, however, people started talking to their doctors about what they were going through. Many had noticed that their periods had become heavier than normal. Initially, some clinicians were dismissive, write the authors of a new investigation into the subject published in the journal Scientists progress. “In media coverage, doctors and public health experts were quick to say that there was ‘no biological mechanism’ or ‘no data’ to support a relationship between vaccine administration and menstrual changes. “, write the authors. “In other cases, experts said these changes were more likely the result of ‘stress’.” But these kinds of changes aren’t unheard of: typhoid, hepatitis B, and HPV vaccines have sometimes been linked to menstrual irregularities.

To better understand what was going on, the researchers launched a survey in April 2021. More than 39,000 people responded: 91% of them identified only as women and 9% were gender diverse. Among those with regular periods, 41% of respondents reported heavier bleeding after being vaccinated, while 44% said they noticed no change. For those who usually don’t menstruate, breakthrough bleeding was reported by 71% of people on long-acting reversible contraceptives, 39% of people on gender-affirming hormones, and 66% of people in menopause.

Older people and those who classified themselves in the survey as non-white or Hispanic/Latino were more likely to report greater flux after vaccination, as were people who had a fever or fatigue like side effect of COVID -19 vaccination and people who have suffered from endometriosis, menorrhagia or fibroids.

It’s too early for the researchers to draw any conclusions about what the results might mean; the study relied on self-reported experiences, which presents challenges. For example, people experiencing menstrual changes may have been more likely to respond to the survey. Researchers can’t yet say the vaccine caused these changes — and if it did, exactly how or why. But one theory is that it has to do with how the immune system reacts to the vaccine. As the study notes, “In general, changes in menstrual bleeding are not uncommon or dangerous, but attention to these experiences is necessary to build confidence in medicine.”

“We suspect that for most people, the changes associated with the COVID-19 vaccination are short-term, and we encourage anyone who is concerned to contact their doctor for further care,” said co-author Katharine Lee. , professor of anthropology at Tulane University, in a press release. “We want to reiterate that getting vaccinated is one of the best ways to avoid getting very sick with COVID, and we know that having COVID itself can lead to not only rule changes, but also hospitalization, long COVID and death.”

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