I've come across a number of anecdotal reports of women with menstrual disturbances following COVID-19 vaccination. From viral TikTok videos, where the comments are filled with similar stories of menstraul disturbance - to a few of my own patients who have asked me about it. As a family doctor (GP), I thought I would bring myself up to date with the latest research and science behind the link between period irregularities, the covid vaccine and the understandable concerns regarding fertility.
As with all stories, lets start at the begining. Before the vaccination programs took off. Before we found out the reduced levels of hospitalisations largely down to patients being vaccinated. There were a group of people who were spreading misinformation. Recent studies have found that as much as 73% of all misinformation around vaccines can be tracked down to 12 anti-vax accounts on social media. When you want to spread fear and mistrust there are usually a few similar routes they go down. The first is capitalising on the fear of infertility and push depopulation consporiacy theories. The second is to focus on pushing naratives around harm to the feotus and the baby.
As a new first time father, I know first hand the level of anxiety around that period of time. I can only imagine how much worse it must be as a pregnant mother, so I am not surprised that the vaccination levels have not been as high as expected for pregnant women.
Do vaccines cause miscarriages?
Lets look at the latest data - rather than some post on facebook or instagram by a shady account. In research when ever we want to look at whether something is increasing the incidence (the rate at which something happens), you have to have a baseline of what the levels were prior to the event. In this case the CDC looked at a register of over 150,ooo women who were pregnant and had been vaccinated. They compared the incidence of miscarriages/pregnancy complications and birth complications with what it was prior to the pandemic. If vaccines increased such things as the insta post above suggests - then one would expect the rates of miscarriages to massively increase in the population.
However the CDC research found that there was no increase in miscarriages/pregnacy complications or birth complications in the group who were vaccinated. Similar data from the UK looking at around 50,000 pregnant women confirmed these findings. So its not surprising that before I'd seen the CDC research, I had come across false narratives across instagram like the image above - this is highlighted by the fact that on social media misinformation spreads 6x faster. More eye balls means more money for social media companies and those spreading it.
Are the Covid Vaccines Changing Women's Periods?
In short, possibly but a conclusive link has not been found yet. Over 30,000 women have reported period changes on the MHRA yellow card scheme, following the Covid-19 vaccine and this has obviously raised some concerns. the menstrual cycle may be affected by the body’s immune response to the virus itself, with one study showing menstrual disruption in around a quarter of women infected with SARS-CoV2.
I have summarised the latest findings in this Youtube video. By no means do we have a conclusive answer yet. But the early indications are that there could be a link, more importantly, there is no risk to fertility from all of the studies carried out so far.
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