Listening to current and former menstruators is crucial to better understanding reproductive health, who would have thought?
A recent study detailing the findings of how the COVID vaccine affects menstrual cycles appeared on my news page in this article found here last week and I want to talk about it. Not just the results that were found but also how important it actually is as well.
Of course, I always recommend reading the actual piece for yourself since there’s plenty of important information that I can’t cover all at once, so I’ll be linking it here.
How the study was conducted was through a survey, which launched in April 2021 and lasted 12 weeks where a variety of people answered questions pertaining to their bodies’ reaction to the COVID vaccine with emphasis on their menstrual cycles.
The included people were those with regular menstrual cycles and those who usually didn’t regularly menstruate such as: people on contraceptives, people taking gender-affirming hormones, or postmenopausal people.
Results found are listed as follows:
- While 44% of people with regular menstrual cycles didn’t report any changes after being vaccinated, 42% bled more heavily than usual
- For those that didn’t menstruate regularly, 71% of people on long-acting reversible contraceptives, 39% of people on gender-affirming hormones, and 66% of postmenopausal people reported breakthrough bleeding
- Heavier menstrual flow was more likely for those who were of non-white race, were Hispanic/Latinx, were older, had a diagnosed reproductive condition, used hormonal contraception, had been pregnant in the past (whether or not they had given birth), were parous, or experienced fever or fatigue after vaccination
Okay, yes, the statistics are crucial in this, but what caused the heavy bleeding to occur?
According to the researchers of this study, they “cannot estimate prevalence or incidence based on our methodological approach of this emergent phenomenon, and the associations reported here cannot establish causality,” writes Katherine Lee, one of the authors of this study. But the results indicate the “supported hypothesis development for additional prospective studies in hemostatic and inflammatory changes to the endometrium after an acute immune response” (Lee et al., 2022). In other words, more studies need to be done to see how menstrual cycles are affected by vaccines or other events that cause the immune system to respond.
Here, the authors describe menstruation as “an inflammatory and hemorrhagic even that must be resolved quickly to restore uterine function and prevent infection and continued hemorrhage” (Lee et al., 2022). So disrupting this process, specifically of the “normal coagulation pathway of the endometrium” can delay the menstrual cycle from ending as quickly as usual (Lee et al., 2022). Within this study, findings suggest that “vaccination is less likely to be affecting periods via ovarian hormone pathways, and more likely along these inflammatory pathways” (Lee et al., 2022).
To put it in simpler terms, rather than affecting ovarian hormones, COVID vaccines are most likely disrupting the menstruation process where the uterine lining is being shed. Add this with stress and trauma from the pandemic, our bodies have been under an increased amount of pressure for a long time. In the paper, it goes into much further detail about why that may be, but this is the basic answer. I want to focus on the importance of this study and the results now.
Why This Is So Important
It’s progress, a step in the right direction. To put it frankly, it feels like we’re finally being heard to some degree and actually taken seriously.
Mostly because we knew about this happening yet it wasn’t a top priority as far as research goes! Not until much later anyway.
Last year when the vaccines were first rolled out, I saw articles discussing the possibility of menstruators experiencing heavier periods after receiving the vaccine. This was hardly ever talked about much as it was usually written off as stress and hormone related. While true to an extent, those aren’t the only factors, yet vaccines were hardly mentioned in this light.
This piece isn’t to scare or dissuade people from getting the COVID vaccine, it’s the opposite. It’s about informing others so we can continue to learn and understand a little portion of how this works because we’re not all scientists or health experts.
It was by hearing about other people’s experiences when receiving the vaccine and how their periods were affected, that I was able to prepare myself for what was to most likely come since my periods aren’t exactly normal. I wasn’t scared when getting the vaccine, just not looking forward to the heavy bleeding. But it was better than actually catching COVID.
And to bring it to my second point, not enough research is done regarding our menstrual cycles or reproductive health in general.
It was noted within this study that “many respondents who had postvaccine changes did not have them until more than a week after inoculation, which extends beyond the typical seven days of closely monitored adverse symptom reporting. . .in vaccine trials” (Lee et al., 2022). Since these symptoms occurred after the set monitoring period, those weren’t included as part of testing. And that is incredibly frustrating because menstruation is hardly considered during vaccine trials aside from “determining last menstrual period as part of established protections against volunteers being or getting pregnant” (Lee et al., 2022). Essentially, is the vaccine safe for pregnant people and does it have any effects concerning fertility? Both are crucial things to consider, but we can and should do better. It’s not just about taking one aspect into consideration but looking at how we’re affected overall.
Considering how easy it is for our menstrual cycles to become unbalanced and disrupted since so many factors are intricately involved, it should be considered in medical trials as well. And yet it’s still not. That needs to change because how can progress be made when we barely know or understand enough about our bodies besides our own intuition which can only do so much? We know when something is wrong, but we can’t exactly diagnose our issues or find proper treatment without some medical advice to a certain extent. So please don’t forget about us.
Have something you wish to share? Comment down below, I’m always open to hearing everyone’s thoughts and experiences. As always, thanks for reading!
Also be sure to keep cool. It’s summer and incredibly hot, so make sure to stay hydrated. My body has been overheating a lot these last few weeks and hasn’t been in the best condition. Don’t let this be you. Drink plenty of fluids! ~So Says The Disabled Dryad~
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