Women’s Health and COVID Vaccines At A Glance:
- NIH launches study to look at changes to women’s menstrual cycles after COVID vaccines.
- Reports from around the world indicate women have experienced changes to their cycle after vaccination.
- CDC to stop investigating VAERS reports related to menstrual irregularities.
Shortly after the general public had access to the COVID vaccines, women started reaching out to other women regarding their periods. Many women reported changes, from heavier bleeding with large clots to an earlier than anticipated period, intense pain, or missed periods altogether.
After months of women reaching out to each other on social media and over 5,000 reports to VAERS in the U.S. alone, studies are finally underway to determine the possible impact the COVID vaccines have on women’s reproductive health.
According to the NIH’s announcement of the study, it recognizes:
Regular menstruation is a complex function that involves the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, ovaries, and responsiveness from the endometrial lining of the uterus, among other tissues. Regular ovulation and menstruation can therefore be an indicator of whole body health and indeed has been called by some the “fifth vital sign.” Due to the intricate interplay of tissues, cells, and signaling (including hormonal and other endocrine signals), the menstrual cycle can be acutely sensitive to internal or environmental variables: temporary changes in menstrual cyclicity or characteristics (duration, flow, or accompanying symptoms such as pain) can be seen in response to changes in stress, weight, diet, medications, inflammatory reactions, and systemic illness.
While anecdotal first person reports of menstrual changes in response to SARS-CoV-2 vaccines exist, these associations, and their long-term consequences, have not been investigated in a rigorous or systematic manner. Clinical trials for the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson SARS-CoV-2 vaccine seem to have collected last menstrual period (LMP) data (to exclude current pregnancies), but have not collected menstrual cycle outcomes post-vaccine.1
NIH Launches Study to Look at Women’s Health
The NIH has finally launched a study. While their purpose seems to be slanted toward a certain outcome, to reduce vaccine hesitancy,2 we can hope it will shed light on the broad range of side effects women are having. Many are hoping it will also help validate the concern women have in why they are refusing the vaccine as it relates to concerns with fertility and health. However, there are concerns with the study as it appears to only have been open for application for one day. According to the study announcement, the key dates for the study are1:
May 17, 2021
First Available Due Date:
June 17, 2021
June 18, 20211
Considerations to earn the grant were: the total cost couldn’t exceed $300,000 and the study had to be completed inside of a year. Five awards were granted to Boston University, Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins University, Michigan State University, and Oregon Health and Science University.
Women’s Health Concerns Around the Globe
Israel has also launched a study on the effects of the mRNA vaccines on the ovary reserves, fertility issues, and vaccine adverse reactions.3 The year-long study began in February of 2021 and is set to go through February of 2022.
The UK is also seeing many women concerned about their cycles in relation to the COVID vaccines. In a recent BMJ (British Medical Journal) editorial, the writer urged for more follow-up on the possible link between the vaccinations and menstrual disruptions. The article stated, “A link is plausible and should be investigated.”4
Common side effects of covid-19 vaccination listed by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) include a sore arm, fever, fatigue, and myalgia. Changes to periods and unexpected vaginal bleeding are not listed, but primary care clinicians and those working in reproductive health are increasingly approached by people who have experienced these events shortly after vaccination. More than 30,000 reports of these events had been made to MHRA’s yellow card surveillance scheme for adverse drug reactions by 2 September 2021, across all covid-19 vaccines currently offered.4
The article concludes:
One important lesson is that the effects of medical interventions on menstruation should not be an afterthought in future research. Clinical trials provide the ideal setting in which to differentiate between menstrual changes caused by interventions from those that occur anyway, but participants are unlikely to report changes to periods unless specifically asked. Information about menstrual cycles and other vaginal bleeding should be actively solicited in future clinical trials, including trials of covid-19 vaccines.4
A publication from the University of British Columbia in Canada also issued a statement. While the article did suggest that other vaccines have been known to alter menstrual regularity, it stated:
In sum, we know very little of the side effects of any vaccine, let alone the current vaccines available for COVID-19, on menstruating and post-menopausal women.5
The article urged women to get vaccinated anyway and concluded with:
There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine alters menstruation or menopause long-term. Whether COVID-19 vaccination is behind the reported cases of postmenopausal bleeding, or menstrual changes, remains to be investigated. And this again highlights the need for additional research on women’s health, in general. For example, had there been more concerted research efforts examining menstruation and menopausal physiology, the current issue of possible vaccine side effects may have been avoided (or at least better understood!).5
Women Take Their Health into Their Own Hands
Friends Katharine Lee, a research fellow in the Division of Public Health Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, and her friend, Kate Clancy, who studies the menstrual cycle at the University of Illinois, shared their personal experiences with each other. After seeing they both had unusual periods following vaccination, they decided to open an online forum asking other women what they’d experienced. After hundreds of responses rolled in from a general Twitter post, the two decided to launch a formal study.
Both researchers describe themselves as “pro-vaccine,” especially given the dangers of COVID-19. Still they’re troubled by the reports they’ve collected that some people are having their concerns dismissed out of hand by doctors. That’s the sort of dismissiveness that can seed mistrust, Lee and Clancy note, and it’s happening in part, they believe, because changes to menstruation are not officially listed as a possible side effect.6
In a recent tweet7, Clancy reported they had not been chosen for the NIH funding they had applied for even though they had already garnered thousands of responses and their study was already underway in the same manner the studies were to be carried out.
CDC’s Response to Women’s Health Concerns
There seems to be mixed messages from the CDC in a September Chicago Tribune article.
Despite reports earlier this month that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had begun research into abnormal menstruation following vaccination, the institution is not conducting further research into the 1,589 incidents of “menstrual irregularity” that have been logged into its reporting system, according to Martha Sharan, a public affairs officer for the CDC’s Vaccine Task Force.
“At this time, CDC is not seeing any safety concerns that warrant additional surveillance of irregular menstrual symptoms reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System,” Sharan said in an email to the Tribune.8
Sharan said the reports, recorded through the end of July, amount to “a very small number,” considering the more than 300 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines that have been administered.8
Director of Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, a branch of the NIH funding the study mentioned above, Dr. Diana Bianchi, also weighed in:
Bianchi said that although the CDC numbers are low, the actual number of people experiencing abnormal periods after a vaccine shot may be much higher, because the system relies on people voluntarily responding to it.
“I would bet that most people don’t even know about it,” Bianchi said.
The reports made to the CDC system are in line with the symptoms that have been discussed more widely online.8
Hold the Phone — Doc’s Thoughts:
Anyone who knows me and knows my family’s story knows how close to home this one hits. My wife’s health story, the one that led to four beautiful daughters after misinformed doctors told her she couldn’t have kids and sentenced her to a life of pain and suffering due to hormones and her irregular menstrual cycle, motivated me beyond what I’d already committed to. No woman is programmed for illness, for infertility. Healthy menstruation and fertility are signs the body is functioning properly. To overlook this important aspect of a woman’s health is gross medical negligence and malpractice. These women are suffering for no reason other than sloppy science and people covering their own special interests. A woman’s cycle is nothing to be messed with! The delicate balance of hormones and how intricately it affects a woman is crucial to her health.
And yet, all they want to do is overcome vaccine hesitancy. I wish they’d call it what it really is: logical, critical thinking, not vaccine hesitancy.
NICHD Director Diana Bianchi said in a statement, “These rigorous scientific studies will improve our understanding of the potential effects of COVID-19 vaccines on menstruation, giving people who menstruate more information about what to expect after vaccination and potentially reducing vaccine hesitancy.”9
Rigorous scientific studies? They have a year and $300,000. Read the criteria. It doesn’t take much to know this isn’t the most rigorous study going on.
And the push for vaccination and turning a blind eye keeps forging ahead. Many of the articles online regarding the changes in menstruation are urging women to just shut up and take the shot. How ignorant are they asking women to be?! They’re asking them to just go along with it. I’m wondering where the feminists are and others who support women? Who’s speaking out against just telling women to go along and be shamed into taking a vaccine that’s clearly causing a disruption; to be able to make their own choices for their bodies? Oh wait, that’s a different narrative.
The Convenient “No Data” Argument for Women’s Health
One argument researchers and doctors are giving suggesting this isn’t a concern to be worried about is that there is no long-term evidence that these shots are harmful to fertility. Clearly…they’ve not been around long enough for long-term data! And that information wasn’t included in the studies anyway. Check out the insert for the Comirnaty vaccine here. No studies were done regarding male fertility and several studies are ongoing and required in the conditional approval regarding women’s fertility and pregnancy. It’s not that studies have been done and it’s been determined there is no risk. It’s that no studies have been done. There is zero data.
The NIH recognized that the initial studies hadn’t even bothered to consider this very crucial impact on women’s health in their initial statement.1 Unfortunately this isn’t a rare occasion. Until 1993, women weren’t required by law to be included in medical trials.10 Since then, to receive NIH funding, studies must follow the requirements laid out in the law:
- NIH ensures that women and minorities are included in all clinical research.
- In trials including women and minorities, the trial should be designed and carried out so that it is possible to analyze whether the variables being studied affect women and minorities differently than other participants.
- Cost is not an acceptable reason for excluding women and minorities.
- NIH initiates programs and support for outreach efforts to recruit and retain women and minorities and their subpopulations as volunteers in clinical studies.
I’d say that #2 would cover how the variables would affect menstruation in women. And for clarification, NIAID, part of the NIH, did participate in these trials; these weren’t all independent by the manufacturers. In fact, NIAID experts advised on the protocol design for each of the trials.11
Conveniently Selective Hearing
The two researchers who also applied for the grant, Katharine Lee and Kate Clancy, should get credit for reaching out and starting to investigate on their own. I’d be upset for not getting that funding, too. It looks like they have a pretty good head start on collecting data. It does seem fishy they weren’t selected by the NIH.
They are hearing from real-world women. Women who’ve also been in menopause for years, on hormone therapies that would typically stop periods whether they are transgender and taking testosterone that would eliminate periods or various kinds of birth control. This is one of the broadest studies I’ve seen in regard to who they are including! They are giving these women a platform to be heard. That’s science and compassion, and much more rigorous than those suggested by the NIH criteria.
These reports are coming in from all over the world. In the UK over 30,000 alone?! That’s alarming and should raise eyebrows all over the world! This isn’t an unusual phenomenon. Did you see the CDC’s response? They aren’t going to investigate the remaining 1,589 cases reported to VAERS? That’s their job! That’s the red flag waving system we’ve been told would indicate concerns! And yet, these concerns are consistent with the complaints women are sharing with each other either through the research of Clancy and Lee, in online groups that keep getting shutdown under the guise of “misinformation,” and in daily life. They are absolutely silencing these women and stealing their voice to suffer in silence and alone.
The CDC spokesperson above suggested that this is such a small number reported in the grand scheme of how many doses have been given. However, let’s consider that of all of those doses given, there were men, post-menopausal women, women with hysterectomies, pregnant women, and according to Bianchi of the NIH, people who don’t know that they can report to VAERS or they should see their doctor! Consider how many cultures around the world won’t even let women discuss these concerns! Yet these symptoms are consistent with what is being reported online. This seems like a gross oversight and heinous medical negligence.
Early Warning Signs of Women’s Health Concerns
If the above arguments aren’t enough, we have to know there have been warning signs, that doctors have been seeing and hearing about this. They just haven’t been responding or taking it seriously.
One writer to the BMJ is taking this seriously. In a letter to the editor:
Clinicians and front-line healthcare workers are advised to encourage women to report heavy menstrual bleeding or other extraordinary bleeding events post-vaccination formally into the vaccine adverse events reporting system and seek prompt medical advice. Public health agencies and regulatory authorities are also requested to investigate these incidences and issue further warnings, as this can, possibly be an early sign of potentially fatal vaccine-induced prothrombotic thrombocytopenia leading to rare CVST events in younger women. There may be some women with pre-existing conditions or those on certain medications that may be at increased risk of experiencing post-vaccination severe adverse events and early warnings will help saving lives.12
The feeling of urgency here can be felt as the writer is imploring doctors to take this seriously. This could be life-threatening, not just an inconvenient period! However, that was posted on April 14, 2021. Since then, it appears as though medical professionals are downplaying that need and reverting to silencing women.
Women Seeking Help
In the U.S., we have VAERS. The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System is a CDC tool for reporting. Below are images taken from a search this week from women of various locations and ages, including those on birth control, post-menopausal, and young teens. Their stories deserve to be heard.
Look how several were right at the beginning of the the vaccine roll-out. Why do you think so many are fighting the mandates? Notice the 14-year old who’s bled for a month. The 13-year-old who’s had bloody noses and an intense period. The 16-year-old hospitalized for anemia. These women are now being told the CDC won’t investigate.
Women, We Hear You!
Ladies, at The Wellness Way, we take your health seriously. If you are experiencing health challenges including those affecting your cycle, reach out. We have doctors trained to listen to you, to help you find answers, and to guide you on your health journey.
1 NIH: Notice of Special Interest (NOSI) to Encourage Administrative Supplement Applications to Investigate COVID-19 Vaccination and Menstruation (Admin Supp – Clinical Trial Optional)
2 NIH: Item of Interest: NIH funds studies to assess potential effects of COVID-19 vaccination on menstruation
3ClinicalTrials.gov: COVID-19 Vaccine and Ovarian Reserve
4BMJ: Menstrual changes after covid-19 vaccination
5The University of British Columbia: MENSTRUAL IRREGULARITIES AND THE COVID-19 VACCINE
6WABE: Why Reports Of Menstrual Changes After COVID Vaccine Are Tough To Study
8Chicago Tribune: Reports of abnormal periods after COVID-19 vaccinations prompt NIH to award funding to study potential link
9The Hill: NIH funding studies into reports of abnormal menstruation after vaccines
10NIH: NIH Inclusion Outreach Toolkit: How to Engage, Recruit, and Retain Women in Clinical Research
11NIH: COVID-19 Vaccine Questions and Answers
12BMJ: Rapid Response: CoViD-19 post-vaccine menorrhagia, metrorrhagia or postmenopausal bleeding and potential risk of vaccine-induced thrombocytopenia in women