The topic of the COVID-19 vaccine and changes in menstrual cycles has sparked much conversation on social media in recent months. To better understand the science and what we know so far, we caught up with Axia Women’s Health Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Elizabeth Cherot. Before we dig into our conversation with Dr. Cherot, we must emphasize a few key things.
There is no scientific evidence that COVID-19 vaccination causes long-term or lasting changes to menstruation, nor does it have any impact on fertility. What we do know is that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and strongly recommended by public health authorities including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine, among others.
Dr. Cherot: Sure. It’s important to note that there have been no scientific findings shared yet on the impact between COVID-19 vaccination and the menstrual cycle. However, numerous women have shared anecdotal reports through social media of mistimed or heavier than normal periods. Most of these women shared that their period was back-to-normal by the next cycle. All of this discussion has prompted researchers to investigate the claims further.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has now awarded grants to leading research institutions to explore the link between the COVID-19 vaccine and potential changes in a woman’s menstrual cycle to see if there is a link or if it is coincidental.
Overall, I think this is a good step in recognizing the feedback women have shared and putting women’s health at the forefront of research so that we can all be more informed.
Dr. Cherot: There are a host of reasons why a woman may experience irregular bleeding, abnormal, or missed periods. Therefore, it’s difficult to say whether any changes were based on the vaccine alone.
For some women, increased stress levels during the pandemic may lead to variability with menstruation. A recent study presented at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine Congress found that 87% of women who had higher reported stress levels since the pandemic also experienced changes in their cycle. Research shows that increased stress leads to increased cortisol levels which can impact a woman’s cycle.
Other factors that could contribute to period irregularity include weight loss or weight gain, as well as other medical conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), uterine fibroids, endometrial polyps, and thyroid diseases.
Dr. Cherot: Social media rumors fueled this myth, based on a rumor that the protein in the COVID-19 vaccine mimicked a protein in the placenta and therefore could “attack” the placenta. This is not accurate, and there’s no reason to believe the vaccine could impact fertility or reproductive health in any way.
The American Society of Reproductive Medicine, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the Society for Maternal and Fetal Medicine have since published a joint statement denouncing any claims that the vaccine causes infertility in women or men. In the history of vaccines, there has never been a link between a vaccine causing infertility.
In our own care centers, we’ve seen many successful pregnancies in women who have had the vaccine, and more broadly CDC data has shown that 4,800 people had a positive pregnancy test after receiving the first dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr. Cherot: In general, I would encourage women not to worry. That said, if you have experienced a recent change in your period, it never hurts to book an appointment with your OB/GYN to have it checked out, as it could be due to another underlying health condition. Above all, I would recommend any woman who has not yet been vaccinated and does not have a contraindication to do so now. While researchers may still be looking into the impact on the vaccine and menstrual cycles, we do know several things already to be true. We know that the vaccine is safe and effective and is our best form of protection against severe illness from this deadly virus.
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