Contributed by: Rachana Arya
A claim, which has gone viral on social media, has led many women to believe that the COVID-19 vaccine isn’t completely safe for them, as it may lead to disruptions to the menstrual cycle and infertility. In support of the statement, the post argues that vaccine dosage first decreases immunity and later builds immunity, so getting vaccinated 5 days before, during, or after your period isn’t safe and may not result in a sufficient response.
Is there any substance to the claim?
For starters, there is no such contraindication saying women cannot take the COVID vaccine during their periods. There is no proof or data linking COVID vaccines to menstruation. Millions of women have already been immunized against COVID-19 around the world. Several gynecologists have stated that these posts, which are mostly based on anecdotes, are false and there is no evidence that inoculation cause changes in women’s cycles or fertility.
International health agencies like World Health Organization (WHO) and America’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have assuaged concerns that Covid 19 vaccines are affecting menstrual cycles. Alice Lu-Culligan and Dr. Randi Hutter Epstein at Yale School of Medicine wrote in the New York Times, “So far, there are no data linking the vaccines to changes in menstruation.”
Closer to home, none of our health agencies like WHO, CDC, ICMR have suggested that menstruating women should not take the COVID-19 vaccine. Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has, on a similar note, mirrored the verdict of health organizations stating that there is no mention of any such scenario that shows a link between menstrual irregularities, fertility, and vaccines.
“#Fake post circulating on social media claims that women should not take #COVID19Vaccine 5 days before and after their menstrual cycle. Don’t fall for rumors!” said the government of India, through its PIB fact check handle.
Besides the government, several medical practitioners have debunked myths and quashed rumors on their respective social media handles appealing all women get themselves vaccinated soon without worrying about potential post-vaccine disruptions in periods. Dr. Vaishali Joshi, obstetrician and gynecologist at Kokilaben Ambani Hospital, Mumbai, said unequivocally there is no way this is possible. She stated in an interview, “Covid vaccination does not have any effect on menstruation. There has been no data to validate the claim that the Covid-19 vaccine affects the periods and its flow. This has originated from social media where people are sharing their own personal experiences. All international advisory bodies and organizations have not acknowledged it.”
“So all women above 18 years of age, irrespective of their periods, hormonal status, should get vaccinated, apart from pregnant women as currently it’s not recommended in India,” she added.
Even the Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech, developers of ‘Covishield’ and ‘Covaxin’, which are the only two vaccines being administered to Indians have not mentioned any contraindication in their fact-sheets released for these vaccines.
Should you be worried?
An unexpected side effect like an unusually heavy period or cramps after receive the jab can prompt fear among women and it’s really understandable. Right now, there’s no scientific evidence that suggests vaccinations to be the cause of irregular periods or other long-term repercussions.
It is certainly plausible that the vaccine can stress the immune system, and the monthly cycle can respond to such changes, resulting in a heavier duration or off-cycle bleeding. However, there is no need to be concerned about the changes witnessed during the monthly cycle. Period disturbances can be caused by a number of factors, ranging from dietary changes, fatigue, over-exercising, taking birth control to steroids, or even underlying medical conditions.
Like the fevers or headaches reported after the vaccines, it is a natural response of the body, and you should be aware that you may feel it after receiving the vaccine. If you have unbearable pain or if your cycle lasts longer than 5 days, you should see your gynae.