The coronavirus vaccines have provided a glimmer of hope during this prolonged pandemic. Yet like most shots, they can cause mild to moderate side effects like fever, chills and muscle pain.
Recently, some vaccinated people reported late menstrual cycles and heavy periods. The initial vaccine trials did not track data on menstruation symptoms.
“Unfortunately, these period symptoms weren’t recorded during the vaccine trials, so we rely on post-release reporting to get that information,” Danielle Jones, a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist based in Texas, told HuffPost. She added that many coronavirus survivors who menstruate reported similar symptoms.
Currently, there is no research that links heavy, irregular and painful periods to the coronavirus vaccines. Experts say it is hard to pinpoint what exactly causes these symptoms.
“Menstruation is a complex process, which can be influenced by many factors, such as environmental changes, stress, sleep and some medications,” Jones said.
She added that the endometrium, the lining of the uterus, is considered to be an active part of the immune system. “When your immune system is ramped up because you’re vaccinated or sick, you may experience changes in how the endometrium reacts.”
It wouldn’t be shocking if the vaccine affects menstruation somehow, but more data is needed to make a definitive conclusion. The good news is that any changes you experience in your menstrual cycle after getting the vaccine are temporary, so it shouldn’t be a reason not to get a shot.
“The Covid-19 vaccine should not permanently change or alter your menstrual cycle. If your symptoms last for more than a few cycles, talk to your health care provider,” Jones said.
Here’s what else you can do for relief from a heavy and painful menstrual cycle:
Take an over-the-counter supplement.
Some anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medications can help. After receiving the shot, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends taking medicine such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin or antihistamines to reduce pain and discomfort – if you have no other medical reasons that prevent you from taking these medications normally.
Taking one of these medications may also help “alleviate the pain often associated with a heavier flow,” said Alexandria Reyes, a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist at Magnolia Gynecology.
Apply heat by taking a warm bath or using a heating pad.
Heat therapy may ease menstrual cramps. A heating pad on your abdomen and lower back can be really comforting for painful cycles, Jones said.
Make sure you’re staying hydrated.
This is important when you get the vaccine, as side effects like a fever can dehydrate you. But water may also help decrease pain associated with heavier cycles. Drink plenty of water or other hydrating liquids like tea or sparkling water. Most people need at least four to six cups of water a day.
Reduce your stress levels.
Psychological stress can impact the duration and flow of your period. Some healthy ways to lower your stress levels and improve overall mental health include exercise, mindfulness, getting a good night’s sleep and staying connected with loved ones.
If your symptoms persist for more than a few menstrual cycles after receiving the coronavirus vaccine, contact NHS 111 or your GP.