Experts are trying to assuage concerns and combat misinformation about how the Covid-19 vaccines may affect menstrual cycles and fertility, after anecdotal reports that some people experienced earlier, later, heavier or more painful periods following the jab.
“So far, there’s no data linking the vaccines to changes in menstruation,” Alice Lu-Culligan and Dr Randi Hutter Epstein at Yale School of Medicine wrote in the New York Times. “Even if there is a connection, one unusual period is no cause for alarm.”
Amid the vaccine rollout, some people have reported changes to their periods and wondered if they were linked to the shot. Dr Kathryn Clancy, an associate professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, recently launched a study researching the potential symptoms after experiencing some of them last February.
“I’m on day 3 of my period and am still swapping out extra long overnight pads a few times a day. Typical for me at this time is maybe one or two regular pads (though extra absorbent, Always Infinity ones) for the whole day,” Clancy tweeted at the time.
Anecdotes like Clancy’s have underscored how many clinical studies do patients a disservice by failing to track menstrual irregularities as potential side-effects. But they have also provided fuel for conspiracy theorists on social media, who have spread outlandish myths about individuals experiencing period abnormalities or miscarriages simply by being in the presence of others who have been vaccinated.
“I suspect the awful people who invented this lie saw the reports of menstrual irregularities post Covid-19 vaccine online and decided to warp it for their campaign of chaos,” Dr Jen Gunter, an obstetrician-gynecologist and pain medicine physician, wrote in an explanatory post.
“No, the Covid-19 vaccine is not capable of exerting reproductive control via proxy. Nothing is. This is because it is a vaccine, not a spell.”
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology also released multiple messages and statements that there is no evidence that Covid-19 vaccines affect fertility. The organization also encouraged pregnant and lactating women to get the vaccine as more evidence has proven it safe and effective for both mother and child.
Even with medical experts trying to clear up confusion, the misinformation could stir even more vaccine hesitancy among women, many of whom have already fallen for false narratives about the shots causing infertility or posing risks to nursing children.
Meanwhile, “actually catching Covid-19 has a very good chance of messing with your menstrual cycle”, Gunter wrote, and “the best way to protect your overall health and your menstrual cycle is to get vaccinated”.
“Think of potential menstrual irregularities as a vaccine side-effect like fever, it’s a sign the immune system is being activated,” she continued. “And in the same way that fever doesn’t make people permanently hot after a vaccine, menstrual irregularities will not be permanent either.”