New study examines COVID-19 vaccine’s impact on menstrual cycles

A new study just came out that highlights the effects of the COVID-19 vaccine on menstrual cycles.
Published: Jul. 18, 2022 at 3:33 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 18, 2022 at 4:50 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - A new study just came out that highlights the effects of the COVID-19 vaccine on menstrual cycles.

“I think it’s a good reminder for healthcare providers to listen to people and really hear what they have to say,” said Dr. Heather Sankey, chair of obstetrics and gynecology health at Baystate Health.

New research has people talking about how the COVID-19 vaccine can affect menstrual cycles. The study, recently published in the journal ‘Science Advances,’ found that 42 percent of people with regular menstrual cycles experienced heavier bleeding after vaccination, while 44 percent reported no change and 14 percent reported lighter periods.

Additionally, 39 percent of respondents on gender-affirming hormone treatments, 71 percent of people on long-acting contraceptives, and 66 percent of postmenopausal women experienced breakthrough bleeding after one or both of their shots.

Western Mass News decided to get answers on why getting the vaccine affects menstrual cycles. Sankey said this should not be cause for concern and she encourages women to still get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19.

“It’s revving up your immune system. We also know what COVID does your menstrual cycle. It’s terrible, so really, what you wanna do is get the vaccine, so you don’t get the COVID-related changes to your menstrual cycle. The vaccine, at least it’s predictable. Your period may come a little later than you expected, it may be a little heavier, and if you’re prepared for that and know that that’s normal, then I think it’s reassuring,” Sankey explained.

Sankey said something interesting to her is that the study, done by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, included people up to the age of 80 when it is never normal to have a menstrual cycle that late in life.

“One of the things that concerns me is that if someone takes a survey, ‘Oh yes, I have the vaccine and then at age 65, I had bleeding’ but doesn’t go to get evaluated, we don’t know that was a vaccine. This could be as early sign of cancer, so if your post-menopausal and having bleeding, please don’t believe in the vaccine. Please go get checked out,” Sankey noted.

The study also found that those who did not typically menstruate - including transgender men, people on long-acting contraceptives, and postmenopausal women - also experienced unusual bleeding. We wanted to know how this was possible.

“If you have a uterus, you can get bleeding regardless of what hormones, so there’s always a chance that when your immune system is revved up, it affects your hormones. We know that we see it all the time, so that can then the effect on your hormone can affect your bleeding,” Sankey said.

Sankey said it’s important to note that this study only collected data from those who were vaccinated against COVID-19. She pointed out there was another study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology or Green Journal that compared two groups: those who received the vaccine and those who did not.

“What they found is that no change in the amount of bleeding, but they found that people who had the vaccine had slightly longer time framing between periods on average about a day, so instead of average of 28-day cycles, 29, that was the main change that they saw. but it was statistically significant,” Sankey added.

Sankey told us none of these studies have found any long-term effects and whether you received the vaccine or not, if you have a significant change in your menstrual cycle, you should call your healthcare provider.