Vaccines save lives. Thanks to the development of vaccines, we have been able to eradicate or at least control many deadly diseases such as smallpox and polio. Currently, our world is battling the COVID-19 virus, which can also be contained with vaccines. As a valuable defence against life-threatening illnesses, vaccines stimulate the immune system to create the desired antibodies, but the process creates challenges that temporarily affect the body and also the menstrual cycle.
The menstrual cycle impacts many aspects of a woman’s health and influences how she interacts with the world. Conversely, her environmental circumstances and physiological processes affect her menstrual cycle. An immune response to an illness or a vaccine can also alter the cycle. In this article, we will shed some light on some common misconceptions about vaccines and how they affect menstruation and fertility.
When you catch a virus for the first time, your immune system might struggle to fight off the new intruder causing fever, chills, headache, swollen lymph nodes, upset stomach, rash, and other common symptoms. The next time the same virus enters your body, your immune system will recognise the pathogens and be able to react efficiently, allowing you to recover more quickly.
The immune system works by creating antibodies against any virus it encounters. The number of viruses on earth is vast and difficult to estimate; more than 200 have been identified as potentially dangerous to humans. While some cause only mild symptoms, others can cause lasting damage and even death. This is where vaccines come into the picture.
Although most vaccine-preventable diseases are under control, especially in developed countries, some vaccines are still widely recommended. For instance, vaccines for polio, hepatitis B, HPV, and pneumococcal infections are recommended for small children and adolescents. Recommendations vary by country and region. For instance, many Asian, Eastern European, South American, and African countries still vaccinate for tuberculosis, while elsewhere, the risk of this disease is minimal. Wherever you live, consult with your doctor to be sure you are up to date on all recommended vaccines for your region, and if you are travelling, be sure to immunise against potential risks at your travel destination.
Each year, vaccines save the lives of around 3 million people worldwide. Smallpox once killed millions but has been completely eradicated thanks to vaccination. Other serious diseases such as polio, diphtheria, and a dozen others are still with us but no longer a serious threat. People who refuse to get vaccinated or don’t vaccinate their kids are not only at risk of getting sick and suffering from dangerous consequences themselves but also risk infecting others and even causing outbreaks.
Some women have noticed changes in their periods after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Although official reports still don’t include changes in the menstrual cycle on the list of potential side effects, many women are speaking up about late or absent periods, early bleeding, heavy bleeding, or bleeding in between menstruation after immunisation.
Experts say that it’s challenging to make a clear link between the vaccine and the menstrual cycle as menstrual disorders are prevalent among women of reproductive age. They also speculate that reported cycle discrepancies may be caused by anxiety about the pandemic. Regardless of numerous reports, menstrual changes have not been added to the list of potential vaccine side effects. Menstrual irregularities were not considered during the trials, once again putting women in a vulnerable position.
While the risk of temporary changes to the menstrual cycle shouldn’t prevent women from getting vaccinated, these reports should be evaluated, and the symptoms should be included on the list of potential side risks to allow people make the best possible decisions about their health.
Most reported cases of cycle changes have been temporary, lasting for one or two cycles, leading some experts to believe that these fluctuations might be caused by the body’s natural immune system response.
The short-term symptoms reported have not resulted in lasting consequences. The more serious problem is that the experts responsible for the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials have yet again neglected a significant aspect of women’s health. Therefore, when so many women began to report period changes, there was no information about it, leading to reckless speculation and more people refusing to immunise.
Early studies suggest that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and have only temporary side effects. Of course, you should discuss vaccination with your doctor if you have any doubts, but there is no evidence to suggest that the vaccine impairs fertility, causes labour complications, or birth defects. Even menstrual changes shouldn’t last longer than one or two cycles. If you notice long-lasting side effects or changes to your cycle, be sure to contact your healthcare provider.
When preparing to get any vaccine, we recommend learning about its history, how it works, and how it can affect your body.
Find the right information. If you have any questions before getting your shots, you can always visit your country’s official health department website or other reputable resources, where you can find information about the benefits and side effects of various vaccines, recommended shots, and vaccination programs. Check your medical history to see if you need a booster shot.
Talk to your doctor. Your doctor can assess the risks and benefits of a specific vaccine for you. If you have any pathologies or allergies that might trigger complications, your doctor will be able to recommend the best course of action to keep you safe.
Weigh the risks. If you have concerns about the potential side effects, weigh those against the consequences of catching the virus it will prevent. For example, although some people do experience short-term side effects after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, the consequences of the disease are far more severe. Everyone is currently at high risk of contracting this virus. The more of us get vaccinated, the sooner the disease will be controlled, and the sooner we can return to socialising more freely.
While the side effects of the vaccine might last for a week or two, damage from the virus can last for years. Research shows that long-term damage from the COVID-19 virus can cause permanent lung damage, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and heart damage. Unless your doctor identifies a significant contra-indication, the best course of action is to vaccinate and avoid coming down with a severe case of COVID-19.
Monitor your health. If possible, remain at the clinic at least 30 minutes after you receive your shot in case of an allergic reaction. Most side effects—tiredness, sore arm, headache, fever—pass within a few days and can be managed with over-the-counter pain-relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs. If symptoms persist for more than two weeks or become more severe, contact your doctor for an assessment.
If you notice changes in your menstrual cycle, speak up. You can always talk to your doctor or report your experience to the authorities responsible for clinical trials in your country or region. The more people report back about their experience, the more attention will be focused on the issues reported. Maybe next time, clinical trials will take women’s health and menstruation into consideration.
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