By Hannah Muehlberger
As if the myths about the COVID vaccine couldn’t get any scarier, there have been women on social media who are explaining how a side effect of the COVID vaccine is missing your period, getting it heavier/lighter than usual, etc. Videos are surfacing on platforms such as TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram of women being worried that the COVID vaccine has affected their period. However, is this purely anecdotal, or is there sufficient evidence to back it up? So far, the CDC has not come out with an official statement regarding the effects of the vaccine on menstrual cycles and there were not any related disclosures from the clinical trials. Despite this, all of these accounts by women are worrying, to say the least, and with the alarming amount of reports, it can deter some women from getting the vaccine.
First of all, nothing you read about the vaccine interfering with your period should prevent you from getting vaccinated, these are just reports and again there has nothing official. Nonetheless, it is definitely something that the community should know.
What is the relationship between my period and the COVID vaccine?
There have been reports and women posting things on social media about how after their doses of the COVID vaccine their periods are different than usual. One of the first women to report this was Associate Professor at the University of Illinois, Dr. Kate Clancy who tweeted: “A colleague told me she has heard from others that their periods were heavy post-vax. I’m curious whether other menstruators have noticed changes too? I’m a week and a half out from dose 1 of Moderna, got my period maybe a day or so early, and am gushing like I’m in my 20s again.” Many women are reporting that their periods are being irregular the month that they are getting their COVID vaccine. An article published by NPR discussed a study in which many women had experienced a heavier period and breakthrough bleeding, some by women who are menopausal. Unfortunately, this has caused the anti-vax community to use this as evidence to prove “the vaccines were being used to spread infertility and ultimately depopulate the earth.” which of course, is not the case. The good news is that the vaccines are safe for pregnant women, but as usual, consult your doctor if you are pregnant before receiving the vaccine.
Why would the vaccine interfere with my period?
In hindsight, there are a number of different things that can cause your period to be less than usual, more than usual, or just be skipped at all. Stress is a big player in missing your period or having it be lighter than usual, and whether it is the vaccine or not, the stress of the pandemic is something to keep in mind. But also, with the vaccine, Dr. Jen Gunter, an obstetrician and gynecologist in the San Francisco Bay Area, said a link is possible, since the uterine lining, which is shed during menstruation, contains immune cells that help protect the uterus. If you think about it too, something new is entering your body and disrupting your immune system, so it doesn’t seem totally wild that women are experiencing side effects. Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady was on a Facebook Live answering questions about the vaccine and menstruation and she said that “estrogen can elevate immune responses, while testosterone can decrease it.”, and the data from the CDC even shows that women are more likely to experience side effects from the vaccine than men.
A colleague told me she has heard from others that their periods were heavy post-vax. I'm curious whether other menstruators have noticed changes too? I'm a week and a half out from dose 1 of Moderna, got my period maybe a day or so early, and am gushing like I'm in my 20s again.
— Dr. Kate Clancy 🏳️🌈 (@KateClancy) February 24, 2021
So what do I do?
GET VACCINATED, if you are eligible (which pretty much everyone is now in most states), get vaccinated. There is no sufficient or reliable evidence that the period irregularities caused by the vaccine lead to infertility, endometriosis, any type of reproductive cancer, or anything of the sort. Don’t panic if your period seems irregular the month you get vaccinated, in the reports of women having irregular periods from the vaccine, their period returns to normal after the previous month. As of now, Everyone 5 years of age and older is now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination, and everyone ages 18 and older should get a booster shot after 6 months of receiving your second dose. If you haven’t been vaccinated yet or have not booked a booster vaccine yet, use this link to schedule an appointment near you. Stay safe and get vaccinated!