A few months into the pandemic last year I started hearing whisperings of strange period-related events from friends, family and women in my community.
So, I began asking my audience if their periods had changed…and since then I’ve been bombarded with messages about normal periods suddenly going haywire in 2020!!!
Welcome to the era of #pandemicperiods.
What’s going on?
As you may know, our menstrual cycles are very much a reflection of our overall health. And in case you haven’t been living on this planet this past year, things have not been so great.
Psychological stress has a massive impact on our health, our cycles and our fertility. I’ve talked about this issue extensively in Week 5 of the program in my book Fix Your Period, in multiple articles on this site, in my program Harness Your Hormones and all over my instagram account.
The problem with a worldwide pandemic is that it’s not just about your stress and the stress you’re experiencing in your day to day life. It’s about ALLLLL the stress of the entire planet. Like, we’re all in this mess together and collectively our bodies are feelin’ it.
Women’s bodies were designed to be keenly attuned to external stressors/dangers. This was meant to protect ourselves and our children. It was also meant to protect us from getting pregnant in dangerous or undesirable circumstances (think times of food shortage).
These female superpowers were wonderful protection mechanisms 10,000 years ago, but fast forward to 2020-2021 and a worldwide pandemic with many people we know getting sick and even dying, the economic impact that has been felt by every single country on the planet, the skyrocketing cases of domestic violence, depression, mental illness and suicide, the mental and emotional toll of losing friends and family, jobs and businesses, and our way of life (lockdowns, no social gatherings etc), and NO WONDER our cycles are acting up like never before.
Add to that the 24/7 news cycle and social media filling our heads with all kinds of fear narratives, and of course our periods are a downright mess.
What symptoms are showing up?
I’ve heard about a range of issues from women. Almost all of them have said they have never experienced these symptoms before, while others have said they’ve only had a few instances in their lives where they’ve experienced them.
- Heavier than normal periods or superrrr heavy periods that are not normal for the person
- Extreme emotional PMS symptoms that are incredibly disruptive to the person’s life
- Period pain that is excruciating and not normally what that person experiences
- Headaches and migraines that are debilitating
- Long periods of spotting in the lead up to a period – like 5-15 days before menstruation
- Other symptoms that are not normal for that person, like large clots, spotting at other times in the cycle, ovulation pain and acne
Have you noticed any of these symptoms?
Stress & the Cycle
I won’t go into major detail here because you can read step by step how psychological stress affects our cycles and fertility in this article.
Let’s just say that when we are faced with ongoing stress, our brains take in that information from the outside world and they make a decision about what to prioritize in the body.
Your brain will prioritize your body’s stress response via the HPA axis (hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis) to make sure you stay alive.
But because reproduction is not necessary for survival, the HPO axis (hypothalamic pituitary ovarian axis) gets taken offline.
This happens via a series of hormonal disruptions starting in the hypothalamus, then in the pituitary and then in the ovaries. So it’s a multi-step process that your body goes through to ensure you either don’t ovulate or ovulation is delayed so you don’t end up pregnant when it is sure it’s not safe right now. Again, our bodies evolved this way as a protection mechanism.
I know you’re like, but this is about my period, not fertility. Well, remember, periods and fertility are one and the same. When ovulation gets disrupted that means your period and your entire cycle get disrupted too.
And here we are!
What can I do?
I think one of the first things everyone should do is STEP AWAY from the fear spiral. Turn off the news (particularly mainstream media). For real, just stop. Limit the time you spend on your phone and seriously cut your time on social media. Unfollow people and accounts that stress you out asap.
Think of something you love (home decor, gardening, bird watching, whatever), and start following accounts that focus on that thing or things you are passionate about and interested in.
You have control over what you are exposed to and how you respond to them. This one act of self-care will lead to amazing results – less perceived stress, less anxiety and fearfulness, better periods.
Does Covid affect my cycle and fertility?
As you can imagine, I’ve also heard a ton of stories from women and menstruators who’ve had Covid and experienced crazy menstrual cycle-related symptoms afterwards. In fact, they are very similar to the pandemic period symptoms I described above.
But what I hear most frequently is:
- Delayed ovulation and periods
- Skipped periods for 1-2 cycles post-covid
- Heavier and more painful periods
- Periods that are “messed up” and not normal for that person for a few months post-covid
Well, as I just said, our menstrual cycles respond to stress. And just like external stress, any illness (an internal stressor) can throw off your cycle, because it can affect the body’s ability to ovulate.
Viral infections use up a lot of your body’s resources. A case of covid-19, especially a severe case, is a huge stressor on your body. There is also a ton of inflammation involved when you contract this virus, which is part of the stress on the body. Your brain decides this is not the time for a potential pregnancy, pulls the alarm and your body does what it needs to do to thwart any chance of a pregnancy – stops or delays ovulation, a period comes early, or a period never comes at all.
Additionally, this virus (like other viruses) appears to negatively affect the hypothalamus because it has a high number of ACE2 receptors. As you may know, is like hormonal headquarters, meaning it governs the endocrine glands in the body. There is also evidence of damage to the HPA axis too. The hypothalamus instructs the pituitary gland to release hormones like FSH and LH that dictate if and when ovulation will occur. If the hypothalamus and the HPA axis are potentially damaged of negatively impacted, this can absolutely impact menstrual cycles and other processes dependent on healthy endocrine gland function.
Covid symptoms at different times in the cycle
If you have or had covid, you may notice more severe symptoms in the lead-up to your period or on the first day or two. This is because the immune system is downregulated at this time in case of pregnancy (to allow for implantation and the body’s acceptance of the embryo), and when estrogen and progesterone levels dip, it creates an inflammatory response in the body.
It seems this virus is affecting people differently – some don’t notice any cycle-related problems, whereas others have had 1-2 cycles get thrown off, and yet others are experiencing ongoing symptoms. If you fall into the last category, it is critical to support your immune system with nutrition, supplements and as much rest as possible.
What I’ve noticed is the poorer your health pre-covid, the worse the period-related symptoms and other lingering symptoms post-covid. But honestly, that is the case with any illness!
You’ll find my personal immune system supporting supplement protocol in the Fix Your Period Supplement Dispensary. I used to be chronically sick with colds and sore throats, and have had a few Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) reactivations which have left me really ill over the years. I can tell you this protocol has made all the difference. I have had maybe two colds since early 2018 and no issues with EBV!
Does the vaccine affect my cycle and fertility?
If there was ever a loaded question, this would be it! I am not a scientist, researcher or medical doctor, so I literally can’t speak to any of this from that perspective.
What I will say is there have been many reports of menstrual cycle abnormalities among women and people who menstruate who have received one or both doses of a covid vaccine.
Women have reported:
- Periods coming late or missing completely (during that cycle)
- Extremely heavy bleeding
- Longer periods than normal
- Very large blood clots
- Spotting (different parts of the cycle) or irregular bleeding
- Cyclical headaches and migraines that weren’t the norm before
I’ve even heard about menopausal women suddenly beginning to bleed after not bleeding for years. Interesting stuff!
Here is a link to a letter published in the BMJ titled Thrombosis after covid-19 vaccination, that corroborates these events women are describing. The main topic of discussion is, “CoViD-19 post-vaccine menorrhagia, metrorrhagia or postmenopausal bleeding and potential risk of vaccine-induced thrombocytopenia in women”.
I HIGHLY recommend you read it, especially if you have a pre-existing coagulation disorder.
It’s not surprising that the symptoms also resemble those of people who had Covid – same, same but different. Like the actual virus, the vaccine elicits an immune response, and when the body senses this, it might deem it an unsafe time for a pregnancy.
In other words, it will mess with the hormones required for healthy follicle growth and subsequent ovulation, so ovulation will be disrupted and so will implantation. See above about the hypothalamus.
The immune/inflammatory response from the vaccine appears to affect everyone differently. Some experience no menstrual symptoms, others are mildly affected and others experience a strong response with symptoms that last for months. Just what I am hearing and seeing.
As I said above, if you’re in that last category I cannot stress enough that you should up your immune system support through nutrition, exercise, supplementation and proper sleep.
This is the only way to beat “long covid” symptoms, whether they are related to your menstrual cycle or not. All the research being done focuses on the fact that people are more likely to have long covid symptoms (symptoms for months and months post-covid infection) if they have a history of autoimmune conditions or an immune system that is upregulated.
Interestingly, people who suffer from asthma, eczema and hayfever/allergies are at a much higher risk for long covid. So are people with Type 1 diabetes and Rheumatoid arthritis. This is also applicable for people who have experienced post viral fatigue from previously contracted viruses, like the flu.
This video explains this phenomenon so well!
Reminder, you can find my personal immune system supporting supplement protocol in the Fix Your Period Supplement Dispensary. It has put an end to my chronic colds and sore throats, and Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) reactivations.
As for long-term effects on cycles and fertility, I can’t speak to that because we literally don’t have the data, which means we really don’t know. Research and time will tell us more. I know, probably not what you want to hear!
Two researchers at The University of Illinois decided to create a formal survey about menstrual changes post-vaccination, (because surprise, this data wasn’t included in the initial studies on the vaccine 🙄), when one of them tweeted about her experience after getting the vaccine.
Here is the survey if you’d like to participate.
I haven’t had the vaccine and I’m having symptoms
Alrighty, this may seem crazy but I’m witnessing this in my work and getting messages from my social media followers in droves about the phenomenon where unvaccinated women are socializing with others who have been vaccinated and are having bizarre period symptoms that are not normal for them.
I don’t know what to make of it, but it appears to be happening. Some claim there is some kind of shedding of the spike protein. But I truly have no idea and won’t claim to! 😬
If I get the vaccine, when in my cycle should I get it?
It’s well established that our immune system function is stronger in the follicular phase (1st half) of the cycle, versus the luteal phase. This is because if there is a chance of a fertilized egg implanting, the immune system has to be slightly suppressed to prevent rejection of the fertilized egg by the body.
So if you’re going to get the vaccine, it’s best to get it in the follicular phase when estradiol levels are climbing, which also supports the immune system. This will potentially lessen the likelihood of post-vaccine symptoms and aid in quicker recovery.
The only caveat here is that it may delay or prevent ovulation in that cycle. Just keep that part in mind when you are timing the vaccine.
Your period is NOT just your period. Your period is a reflection of your overall health and if there is a problem, your period will definitely let you know (as is evidenced by the epidemic of period problems this past year and the unbelievable amount of menstrual cycle-related problems reported post-vaccine).
Supporting our health is a personal responsibility that we should all take seriously, now more so than ever.
Everything I recommend in my book Fix Your Period, my Harness Your Hormones Program, on this website and on instagram is supposed to move you towards improved understanding of your health, hormone balance and better periods. These things are not mutually exclusive, but rather they are all intricately connected, and we should treat them as such.