At the moment, I am seeing a lot of discussion about people saying their periods are being affected by either the virus or the vaccine, and even claims that other people in family or friendship groups becoming ill or vaccinated affecting periods of people who haven’t had any contact with them.
Is Coronavirus Or The Vaccine Causing Period Problems?
OK, this is complex and I don’t know much about the various different vaccines and I am not an immunology expert. But I do know about the menstrual cycle, and have spent years deciphering thousands of charts and I don’t mind saying, I am fairly confident that I can see things that are affecting our cycles when looking at client charts.
What I Am Looking For In A Chart
When looking to identify a “healthy” or fertile cycle in a chart, I am looking for a cycle that is between 26 and 35 days in length. Longer than this and the client is not ovulating regularly. Shorter, and the client is ovulating but has a short luteal phase (I have heard of but yet to come across evidence of a short follicular phase).
I am also looking to see if the ovulation is “fertile” meaning there is a cervical fluid pattern, and I am also looking to see that progesterone, thyroid and other hormonal levels are sufficient, so I am looking for a qualifying thermal shift, with a decent rise and no spotting before the period as well as a luteal phase lasting at least 12 days.
Things that can delay ovulation, shorten the luteal phase, or confuse the signs are:
Stress – this can be even the most minor stressors for some people, from an upsetting incident at work, working extra hours, looking after ill family members to deeply traumatic events, pretty much anything can be a stressor. Things such as suddenly having to stay confined in your house in lock down, having to homeschool kids whilst working, the emotional stress of isolation, feeling scared of the news or not understanding what is going on are also stressors.
Stress about worrying about vaccines, their side effects, or not knowing about their testing and various news reports can all be stressors.
This can prevent ovulation from happening. So it could appear as a long cycle. It could also be that if the body was in the lead up to ovulation, you may find that the cervical fluid drops off or appears to peak but there is not temperature rise. If the body does ovulate, then the rise might not be sustained, a period may arrive early, with a short luteal phase, or spotting before the period.
Stress can also increase inflammatory cytokines, causing more period pain, it can shorten the luteal phase meaning heavier periods, or stop the menstrual cycle or suppress hormones creating light or scanty periods.
In some cases periods have ceased entirely and women have even been thought to be menopausal when actually, they were undergoing a period of stress.
Travel across time zones – this can disturb temperature readings and this makes it more difficult to spot a qualifying temperature rise if this happens around the time we are expecting to see a thermal shift for ovulation.
This can mean that we have to wait or disregard those days on a chart and assume they contain no useful information. Also, for some people, travelling is stressful on their body and travelling often interferes with our sleep.
Lack of sleep – similar to timezone travel, you need at least 3 hours of proper sleep for your basal body temperature (BBT) reading to be useable. I know a lot of people whose sleep is getting more and more disturbed as the pandemic continues. Whether it affects their charts and cycles depends on their personal biochemistry. Lack of sleep can also cause inflammation, incase the stressors on your body, make you less resilient, prevent recovery and increase insulin resistance in some people, so please don’t skip the zzzzs if you can help it. Maintaining a regular sleep cycle is one of the most important things you can do for your health.
Alcohol – alcohol and inflammation for that matter can raise your body temperature and render your BBT reading useless. It can also interfere with your hormone metabolism whilst the liver prioritises processing the alcohol first as it is a poison, so a higher priority. Whilst alcohol is a sedative and can make you unconscious, it can also prevent you from going through all the parts of a sleep cycle or getting through enough sleep cycles to feel well rested and recovered the next day.
I know that a lot of people have taken to increasing their alcohol intake during the pandemic either through stress or boredom, and as such, it can interfere with both your charting and your menstrual cycle.
The interference with oestrogen metabolism can cause heavier periods, make oestrogen sensitive diseases and conditions worse such as fibroids, endometriosis and PMS.
Inflammation – inflammation can mess up so much. It’s not all bad, controlled inflammation is a necessary part of our immune system to fight off foreign pathogens. Firstly, it can cause higher temperatures, but it can also increase stress hormones, prevent ovulation, cause thyroid issues, and shorten the luteal phase. It can interfere with every part of the menstrual cycle. I might see a failed ovulation, a short luteal phase, excess cervical fluid, as well as temperature spikes in odd places.
Inflammation can be caused by illness including catching viruses, trauma, even a small paper cut, being overweight (let’s be honest most of us have put on weight during lockdown), not enough exercise or too much exercise (I think both have been applicable to me during the long days inside), lack of sleep, certain foods, unstable blood sugar levels, and I think you get the gist.
Inflammation can lead to more period pain, cramps as well as other pain too such as endometriosis pain.
Illness or injury – both of these can mess with ovulation and the luteal phase as well as cause a rise in temperature making it difficult to read a chart. Severe illness can stop the menstrual cycle, make your period look really weird (like turn green, grey or black), change in consistency or just cause issues with excess or scanty periods, cervical fluid and spotting.
Medications – this includes supplements, herbs, essential oils, over the counter remedies and vaccines. Medications can do all sorts to the menstrual cycle depending on what it is for. Expectorant medications such as those containing guafenisin for colds and the flu (and sometimes used by people with Covid), loosen up the mucous in the body. Cervical fluid is technically a mucous but many of us call it fluid as not everyone wants to talk about mucous.
This will increase the cervical fluid you see, and may interfere with finding the expected fluid pattern that you normally see, making it difficult to read your chart. But let’s be honest, medications can pretty much do anything to your chart as all medicines are so different. If we’re honest, some could actually improve your cycle.
Let’s have a quick think about the principle of vaccines. Most vaccines work by injecting a small amount of the virus into the body, to get your body to create anti-bodies. This is going to create some inflammation and it should, you want inflammation around small injuries such as paper cuts to kill off any bacteria or other pathogens that could be in there, but then it will reduce. The same would be true of a vaccination.
We would expect it to create an inflammatory response in the body so that the body creates anti-bodies. Also, anxiety about vaccines, social media and news reports can create a stress reaction if you are worried.
But Does Covid-19 Or Any Of The Vaccines Cause Period Problems?
Maybe? I’m not avoiding the question. If you are asking whether there is any evidence of direct cause, then at this point in time, I don’t think anyone can answer that question truthfully either way. There may well be a connection we don’t know yet.
However, hopefully you can see that there is so much going on right now that can be messing up our cycles and health, it is fair to say there is at least an indirect effect, however, I think the more important question is, what do we do about it.
Add to that period related diseases and conditions such as endometriosis and PCOS, where patient investigations and/or treatments are being placed on hold, it is the perfect melting pot for reproductive health right now.
The Important Part
The last year has been tough on everyone for so many reasons, of course our health, wellbeing and menstrual cycles are messed up. Add in mental health issues and some long term effects on generations for many decades to come, rather than focussing on what is causing what, I feel it is more helpful to acknowledge what we are feeling now and what we can do about it.
It is ok to be scared, stressed and feel like you are at your wits end, you don’t need a reason. However, what can you do? I always recommend people start with their GP for mental health resources and to get a proper assessment of what is going on.
I am super lucky that I live an area where the NHS provides free CBT online and there are some fantastic charities that have mental health helplines such as Mind and the Samaritans. There are also many charities and private mental health service providers and I highly recommend speaking with someone to get some clarity on your situation and what would be the best move forwards.
Emotions, events and stressors can have a huge impact on your health, well being and periods, and this is something that really should be acknowledged more. If you have taken my period quiz, you will have been sent a link to the video page where I go into this in more detail and make several suggestions. We need to come together in communities of support more than ever at this time.
The next thing is to understand what is going on with your periods. To get to the root cause of what is causing your period problems, you can take my period quiz or take my Charting For Health Course, or explore this blog further.
Once you know what is causing your conditions, you can explore the blog, or take actions such as changing what you eat, do some yoga, get an abdominal massage or whatever you feel will be helpful (and don’t forget the quiz videos will help you with this).
So whilst we don’t know at this point in time if either the Covid-19 virus itself or any of its vaccines directly cause period problems, we do know that the way we have been living over the past year does. And more importantly, if you are struggling right now, please reach out to your personal resource network to ask for help.