Can COVID-19 Affect Your Menstrual Cycle?

4/26/2021
Have you noticed something off about your period? Wondering if COVID-19 may be to blame? It’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for changes in your menstrual cycle and talk to your women’s health clinic about anything out of the ordinary. Many women are noticing that their menstrual cycle has changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are some explanations for this, but experts are still researching the effects.

While changes to your menstrual cycle may be nothing to panic about, it  can still help to talk to our women’s health care provider about changes. In some cases, this can signal bigger health issues that may need some extra attention. 

Talk to Your Women’s Health Clinic if You’ve Noticed Changes with Your Period
Slight changes in your menstrual cycle can happen for many different reasons. These include things like hormone changes, weight changes, and reproductive conditions like PCOS. Pregnancy may also seem like period changes, as many women experience spotting in their first trimester that could be mistaken for a light period. Perimenopause can also cause changes to your period, like irregular cycles or skipped periods.

However, because period changes can also signal something more serious going on with your health, it’s usually better to be safe than sorry and talk to our doctor about differences you’ve noticed.

Some signs you should make an appointment at your women’s health clinic to talk about your period include:

  • Frequently having periods fewer than 24 days apart
  • Consistently bleeding for longer than 7 days
  • Regularly going two or more months between periods
  • Frequent spotting between periods
  • Heavy bleeding (needing to change your pad or tampon every hour or more)
  • Clots larger than the size of a quarter
  • Excessive clots
Period Changes since the Pandemic Started? Visit your Women’s Health Clinic to Rule Out More Serious Conditions
Many women are reporting period changes since the COVID-19 outbreak. A lot of these differences vary between women, but a lot of people are connecting the dots between the changes they noticed and the timeframe of the pandemic.

Women around the country are asking women’s health care professionals whether COVID-19 has anything to do with their period changes. Researchers are still studying the virus and its effects after infection, but there’s a chance that it could. 

Some of the symptoms women have reported include:

  • Spotting
  • Skipped periods
  • Longer or shorter cycles
  • Unusual clotting
  • Worse PMS symptoms
  • Heavier periods
This is concerning because many of these symptoms are also on the list of period signs that you want to have checked out at your women’s health clinic. Once again, it’s generally better to be safe than sorry and give us a call to see if our provider recommends an exam or testing for other health issues.

How can COVID-19 Affect My Period?
While there’s still much we don’t know about COVID-19, there are a lot of theories as to why your period might change. Even if you haven’t been infected with the coronavirus, there’s still a chance that your menstrual cycle may be affected. 

Many experts believe that these changes can be due to stress, lifestyle changes during quarantine, or COVID-19 infection. As research continues, there are a few explanations why many doctors believe the pandemic may be affecting some people’s cycle.

Pandemic Stress can Wreak Havoc on Your Cycle
Most people would agree that the pandemic has been stressful. A lot of us are worrying about our health and our loved ones’ health. Some have gone through the pains of working from home. Also, we are all dealing with uncertainty of when things will return to normal.

Needless to say, many of us are dealing with way more stress on our plates than normal.

Stress can quickly take a toll on our bodies, leaving people feeling drained, irritable, and even leading to things like stomach problems and losing hair. This pandemic stress can also affect our menstrual cycle. 

Even before COVID-19, stress has been a common cause in period changes. The problem with feeling stressed is that it initiates our fight or flight response. When we’re stressed, we release the hormone cortisol. Cortisol can delay or stop ovulation and reduce our progesterone levels. This can lead to menstrual changes.

Also, stress can affect your hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis. This is basically how your brain communicates with your ovaries using hormones as the messenger. Things like mental stress, physical stress, and even sleep disruptions can all bog down your HPO axis, which affects how much estrogen and progesterone your ovaries produce. This, in turn, can meddle with your cycle. 

Everyone’s body may react a little differently to the stress of the pandemic and quarantine. Some women may notice shorter, lighter periods and others may notice longer, heavier periods, and others may notice different symptoms or nothing at all. It’s generally a good idea to get a checkup for your symptoms from your women’s health clinic, but if you’ve skipped a period because of stress, it’s generally not a major health concern. However, if you’re sexually active, even if you’re on birth control, a skipped period may warrant a pregnancy test. 

Lifestyle Changes Make a Big Difference
Also, many people have had to change a lot of things about their daily life because of COVID-19. These lifestyle changes may also affect your menstrual cycle. For example, your eating, sleeping, and exercise habits may have changed. Weight changes can lead to hormone imbalances which can affect your period. Lack of sleep can also induce a stress response from your body that may affect your periods as well. 

Another issue many of the providers at our women’s health clinic have noticed during the pandemic is increased alcohol consumption and tobacco use. Smoking and chronic heavy drinking can also take a toll on your menstrual cycle, as well as the rest of your body. 

The Virus Itself May Change Your Period
Also, the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the one responsible for COVID-19) may also affect your period if you’ve been infected. Viral infections in general can put your body under stress and take up a lot of your body’s resources. This means that ovulation and menstruation may get put on the back burner as your immune system fights the virus. Many doctors note that period changes during COVID-19 are similar to those of many other illnesses, like the flu or the common cold. Fortunately, many women notice their periods go back to normal as they start to recover and their symptoms improve.

However, there is also a potential that the virus may also attack the ovaries similar to how it attacks other organs. This could also affect your menstrual cycle.  While this potential has been proposed by some, it hasn’t been studied and is only speculation until we have further research.

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