In the UK, more than 49 million people have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. With everyone over 12 now being eligible for the jab, the vaccination campaign has proved successful so far. However, despite the high numbers of people who are already vaccinated, hesitancy about the vaccines and concerns over side effects and misinformation are still rife.
One area that has caused concern for many people recently is whether or not the vaccines might impact your period. Google searches based around such queries have rocketed since April of this year. The phrase “bad period after vaccine” has increased by a shocking 4,700%, while searches for “period problems after vaccine” have increased by 3,000% and searches for “Pfizer delayed period” increased by 2,600%. Evidently, concerns are growing about a possible link between the COVID-19 vaccinations and period irregularities. However, with this potential connection yet to be studied in-depth, medical professionals are calling for “more robust research”.
As of September 2021, there have been more than 30,000 reports in the UK of period irregularities after having had the vaccine. With that in mind, let’s delve into what we know so far about how the vaccine might impact your period.
What are the reports?
There are a number of side effects that we know might affect you after you get your jab. For instance, it’s pretty common to experience a fever, headaches, or a painful arm for a day or two after your vaccination. However, none of the COVID-19 vaccines include any side-effect warnings related to periods. Despite this, there have been a lot of reports from people who have noticed some changes after getting either their first or second jab. They include unexpected bleeding after getting one of the vaccines, delayed periods, heavier periods, and lighter periods. As the reports vary so much, and every person is likely to experience slightly different cycles whether they’ve been vaccinated or not, it’s hard to say exactly which of these things could be linked to getting the vaccine until further research has been done.
What about the different types of vaccines?
So far, the reports have come from people who have had all the types of COVID-19 vaccines given out in the UK. Some experts, such as reproductive immunologist Dr Victoria Male, have speculated that the effects could therefore be linked to vaccination in general, rather than specifically the COVID-19 vaccines. In conversation with Glamour Magazine, she explained that “it’s just that we are noticing it now because this is the first time we have undertaken such a widespread vaccination campaign in menstruating people”.
What do the experts say?
Despite calls for the potential connection between vaccinations and period changes to be investigated, some experts have different explanations. Dr Male explains that the changes you might notice to your period could be linked to your body’s immune response rather than the vaccines themselves. Put more simply, this means that your hormones might be knocked out of kilter while your immune system is working on building up antibodies to fight the virus.
Others argue that there is no link between COVID-19 vaccinations and period irregularities. One report from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) states that it “doesn’t report a link” between the two, despite the number of reports.
Considering these differences in opinions, one thing is for sure – we need to do more research! Dr Male argues that researching the potential impacts of vaccinations on periods shouldn’t be an “afterthought” in the future. She also believes that more research is important when it comes to tackling vaccination hesitancy. Talking to the BBC, she explained that “vaccine hesitancy among young women is largely driven by false claims that COVID-19 vaccines could harm their chances of future pregnancy. Failing to thoroughly investigate reports of menstrual changes after vaccination is likely to fuel these fears. If a link between vaccination and menstrual changes is confirmed, this information will allow people to plan for potentially altered cycles.”
Should I get the vaccine?
It’s completely understandable that you might feel nervous about getting vaccinated with so many different pieces of misinformation out there. However, according to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), getting one of the jabs is the “best protection” against COVID-19.
As everyone’s cycles are different, it can be difficult to know what might have caused a change. Whether you’ve just started getting signs of first period and are experiencing irregularities or you’ve been experiencing changes to your cycle later in life, many of us experience alterations from time to time. However, if you feel like you’re experiencing a sudden change or you’re bleeding much more than usual, it’s always worth checking in with your GP to put your mind at ease.