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Can COVID really mess with your period? We asked an expert.

As the months go on, we're slowly learning more about the impact of 'long COVID' and the residual symptoms people are developing long after they should have 'recovered' from the virus. 

Fatigue. Headaches. Cognitive issues. Fevers. And, more recently, anecdotal reports of irregular periods.

Watch: If your period was a person. Post continues.


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It seems that many people dealing with 'long COVID' have been reporting an impact on their menstrual cycles, with medical experts now looking into a possible link.

To find out what's going on, we asked GP Dr Imaan Joshi to tell us exactly what we know when it comes to COVID and your menstrual cycle.

Can COVID-19 affect your period?

Before we get into it, Dr Joshi said it's important to note that menstrual abnormalities are fairly common, and so sorting out correlation from causation isn't exactly straightforward.

"In saying that, there’s been more evidence that for the vast majority, getting vaccinated does not change the menstrual cycle significantly or persistently," she shares.

"The exception to that (pending a formal study) may be women who go on to suffer 'long COVID'."

"There are some reports that some women with persistent COVID symptoms may go on to experience menstrual irregularity, including irregular periods, when that wasn’t the case pre-COVID (more clotting and/or worse PMS)."

For example, one small study published in Reproductive BioMedicine Online, found 25 per cent of people with COVID have menstrual changes.

However, research around how and why the virus has a negative impact on the menstrual cycles post-infection, is still quite spare.

What kind of changes might you experience?

"For the vast majority, since our periods are rarely like clockwork and are sensitive to stress including (any) illness, it may be common to experience a delay between cycles or some other symptoms that may not be typical for you for one to two cycles," explains Dr Joshi.

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Anecdotal reports list irregular periods, heavy flows, long periods and PMS flare-ups as common changes women are experiencing after infection.

"At present, there’s no data out of large studies to indicate that these persist or have any impact on fertility," adds Dr Joshi.

Can the stress of the pandemic affect your period?

It's important to note that the negative effect on menstrual cycles could also be related to other symptoms of COVID, such as reduced physical activity and increased stress. All of these different factors can affect the mechanism of the menstrual cycle.

"Stress itself is well known to affect menstrual regularity by disrupting the hormonal balance between the brain and the ovaries. We may see this in people with chronic disease as well as life stressors - so it’s hard to say for sure," said Dr Joshi.

"In the study quoted above, it’s worth noting that menstrual changes among vaccinated and unvaccinated groups were controlled, and the unvaccinated group didn’t experience any menstrual changes."

Meaning? 

"Pandemic stress may not be a factor within the limitations of the trial and its participants," explained Dr Joshi.

What should you do if you're experiencing irregular periods?

If you're experiencing sudden changes in your menstrual cycle, Dr Joshi suggests tracking your period pre-COVID so you have a baseline to compare it to. 

But if you're vaccinated and haven't had the chance to track your period - don't stress. It's still helpful to track your cycle over the next few months to monitor any changes.

"In the recent study quoted above, most participants who experienced irregularities returned to normal by six months post-vaccine," Dr Joshi shares.

"Even so, we know the reproductive cycle is sensitive to stress and other chronic illness, including recovering from COVID itself. So, the first step would be to start by tracking and taking note of the changes and the exact symptoms and duration and whether they recur the next cycle so you can seek help from your GP if they’re persistent."

Have you experienced any changes to your menstrual cycle? Share with us in the comment section below.

Feature image: Getty