Can COVID-19 vaccine impact your menstrual cycle? Doctors address side-effects concerns

Dr. Viray: 'That’s just not how these vaccines work'
Virus Outbreak Ohio
Posted at 8:08 PM, Apr 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-15 09:29:28-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Hundreds of women have taken to social media to document their experience with a change in their menstrual cycle following their COVID vaccine.

In a thread started by University of Illinois Associate Professor, Dr. Kate Clancy, some said they noticed more cramping, heavier bleeding, or other irregularities.

Dr. Melissa Viray, Deputy Director for the Richmond City and Henrico County Health Districts said she does not believe there’s a physiologic involvement between the vaccine and a woman's menstrual cycle, and would not classify it as a side-effect of the COVID vaccine.

"That’s just not how these vaccines work -- so I’d be very surprised," said Dr. Viray.

However, Dr. Viray did say the vaccine could put stress on the body since it’s teaching your immune system to fight the COVID virus.

"Any time you put a stressor on the body, there are definitely -- there are definite changes that occur," Dr. Viray said. "...I could see where it might have, it might influence menstrual cycles in a little way, but just in the way that any stressor or any change to the environment for some for some individuals can change their menstrual cycles."

Rachel Love, M.D., Medical Director for Women's Services for Bon Secours Richmond OB-GYN, said she sees even good stressors, like a new job or move, throw off hormones and cause menstrual irregularities.

"So, there's a really complex feedback mechanism between your brain and ovary, it's called the HPO axis. And any major stressor is enough to throw off that axis," said Love.

She added that changes to the menstrual cycle post-vaccine were not directly caused by the vaccine itself and would be temporary.

"It doesn't affect their future fertility or their reproductive health. I know, that's a big concern. But rather, that it's an immune response, which is good and natural," Love said.

Common side-effects experienced after getting the COVID vaccine included tiredness, headaches, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea, according to the CDC.

Clinical trials of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine showed stronger reactions more commonly reported after the second dose -- and more often in younger people.

Dr. Viray said health officials were continually monitoring side effects to ensure safety as a top priority.

"There are probably going to be a lot of things that come up that we have to investigate," Dr. Viray said.

The CDC reports a rare life-threatening allergic reaction called Anaphylaxis occurs in about 11 cases per million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and on Tuesday administration of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was paused nationwide due to blood clotting in six women following their shot.

"There is ongoing monitoring for adverse events, in particular, for severe adverse events, and in the event there’s a signal they (the CDC and FDA) will throw up a flag," said Dr. Viray.

Dr. Viray said there were several ways to report any side effects experienced following a COVID vaccine.

One way was through a smart-phone based tool called V-safe, which used text messages and web surveys to check-in.

Post vaccination, you can use V-safe to report how you're feeling, and depending on your answer, someone from the CDC may call you to get more information.