Medically Reviewed by Fernando Mariz, MD — Written by Jill Seladi-Schulman, Ph.D.
COVID-19 is a disease that’s caused by the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. It’s often associated with respiratory symptoms, such as cough and shortness of breath. However, COVID-19 can also impact other parts of the body. Digestive, neurological, and cardiovascular symptoms can also occur.
There’s some evidence, through both research and anecdotal reports, that COVID-19 may also affect your period.
Let’s break down what we know so far.
Can COVID-19 affect your menstrual cycles?
Throughout the pandemic, there have been various anecdotal reports about how COVID-19 may impact the menstrual cycle. Some of the reported changes have included:
- lighter periods
- heavier periods
- irregular periods
- missed periods
So far, little research has been done on the effect of COVID-19 on menstrual cycles. It’s possible that the infection itself could stress your body or disrupt hormone levels, leading to noticeable changes in your period.
A 2020 study Trusted Source found that the lining of the uterus (endometrium) is likely safe from direct infection by the novel coronavirus. This is because it has lower levels of ACE2, the receptor that the novel coronavirus binds to, throughout the menstrual cycle.
So, what do we know about COVID-19 and menstruation? A 2021 studyTrusted Source assessed data from 177 menstruating people with COVID-19. Let’s take a closer look at the results.
Insights into COVID-19 and menstruation
Changes in menstrual volume were found in 45 out of 177 people (25 percent). Out of these 45 individuals, 36 experienced a significantly lighter period while 9 had a significantly heavier period.
People with severe COVID-19 were more likely to have a menstrual cycle that was longer than 37 days. Researchers found that 34 percent of people with severe illness had long cycles, compared to 19 percent of people with mild illness.
When researchers compared menstrual cycle length during COVID-19 to an individual’s normal cycle length, they found that 50 out of 177 people (28 percent) had changes in their menstrual cycle. Most experienced a longer-than-normal cycle during their illness, although some had a shorter cycle.
The levels of sex hormones, such as follicle-stimulating hormone, estrogen, and progesterone, from 91 people with COVID-19 were compared to 91 people without COVID-19. No difference was found between the two groups.
Lastly, researchers observed that 84 percent and 99 percent of participants had returned to their normal menstrual volume and cycle length, respectively, 1 to 2 months after having COVID-19.
- Some people may experience temporary changes in menstrual volume and menstrual cycle length due to COVID-19.
- The most commonly observed changes were lighter-than-normal periods and increased menstrual cycle length.
- Levels of sex hormones didn’t differ significantly between those with COVID-19 and those without COVID-19.
- Most people returned to their normal menstrual patterns 1 to 2 months after having COVID-19.
COVID-19 vaccination has also been associated with changes in menstruation. However, research hasn’t directly linked these changes to the COVID-19 vaccines. In fact, research into the way vaccines can impact menstruation is generally lacking.
So far, reports are anecdotal and most often describe irregular periods or heavier periods after vaccination. These effects appear to be temporary, with most experiencing a return to normal menstrual patterns in the weeks after vaccination.
However, according to the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the agency tasked with ensuring the safety of medicines, medical devices, and blood products in the UK, between December 8, 2020 and September 8, 2021 there were 34,633 incidents of menstrual and vaginal bleeding reactions reported to them in relation to a COVID-19 vaccine in Great Britain.
To put this in perspective, there were approximately 47.8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered to women in the UK during that same time period.