One Sure Sign of COVID Every Woman Should Know
A few months into the COVID-19 pandemic, it became clear that some people were not fully recovering from the virus. Even those whose initial symptoms were mild were experiencing prolonged health complications, including fatigue, fever, headaches, and loss of sense of taste or smell. Health experts refer to the condition as long COVID and those who suffer from it, long haulers. Now, women who fall into this category are reporting a peculiar new symptom: prolonged menstrual cycles. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
You May Experience Irregular Periods, Blood Clots, Symptom Flare-Ups
According to a new report from Medical News Today, women in long hauler support groups and on social media have been sharing their experiences, revealing how the longer than usual periods have impacted their quality of life. They also interviewed six individuals who reported the symptom and Dr. Linda Fan, assistant professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences and the section chief of Gynecology and the Director of Gynecologic Quality and Safety at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, CT.
According to their report, the majority of the women they interviewed explained that since recovering from COVID-19, their periods have been irregular, their period blood has been usually clotting, and they have been experiencing worse than usual PMS. In fact, every single woman reported at least one change to their cycle.
"I noticed that my menstrual cycles changed immediately when I became ill [with COVID-19]," one woman told MNT.
"Two weeks into my COVID-19 battle, I was supposed to get my period, and nothing came. I figured to myself, 'I must be really sick. It will come next month.' But nothing came the next month, either. Eight months later, and I've only had five periods."
Another woman in her mid-40s who believes she was infected in March, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, also reports an irregular cycle. "In May, I skipped a whole month's cycle of having a period. In June and then July, it returned, but [it was] very erratic, lasting a lot longer and stopping and starting," she explained.
One woman in her late 40s reported unusual blood clots in their menstrual discharge. "I didn't notice anything different during the initial onslaught of COVID. It wasn't until 3 months later […] when some symptoms came back that I noticed a change. I noticed an increase in clots — but quite a bit."
My cycles have been more irregular — [going from] 24 to 28 days. The first 3 months, I had big clots that were very alarming for me, and I had to take a photo, and I sent it to the [family doctor] who said [that] this is normal," revealed another woman. "I know for sure it isn't normal [for me]."
She also noted that the severity of her long COVID symptoms would increase around the time that she would get her period: "A week before my period I would relapse and [also become] more breathless."
You May Suffer Decreased Quality of Life
Many of the women explained that the symptoms — specifically those related to their menstruation — have decreased their quality of life. For example, the painful periods have them housebound and even impacted their mental health as they are worried about what is going on.
"I feel like I have PMS all the time. COVID has [also] made me more sensitive emotionally, and I am aware of emotional ups and downs that I'm having now that I didn't have before," stated one of them.
Doctors Can't Help Some of These People
The women claim doctors haven't been able to help treat the issues.
"With regard to my period, my [gynecologist] just says it's due to the stress that my body is going through due to this illness, while all other healthcare professionals do not care, since having periods is normal (they don't put it into a context that I haven't had periods for the past 10 years)," one explained.
"I have seen my doctor, but not just [about] the period change, but for overall post-COVID help, and [they were] unable to help me. [Her doctor] immediately dismissed any COVID relationship [regarding the impact on menstruation]," added another.
Another explained that doctors are more concerned about other symptoms.
"In general, medical […] advice is lacking for the entire COVID illness, [and more so] with regard to periods. I've been told [that it is due to] 'stress and anxiety' by the majority of doctors for every symptom. I've worked in the medical device field in women's health, so I'm very aware of these issues — the gender bias is ingrained in medicine, and add [COVID] to that… I've been through lots of stress in certain periods of my life and have never had any of these symptoms."
It Could Have to Do With Stress
While it's unclear why menstrual cycles are impacted by the virus, Dr. Fan points out that it could be due to stress.
"Stress itself is well-known to cause menstrual irregularities by disrupting the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis (essentially the hormonal system that the brain uses to speak to the ovaries)," she said. "We see this in [people who] experience other chronic diseases, life-stressors, anxiety and or PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]."
There Could Be Long-Term Repercussions
Dr. Fan hypothesized that the virus could have a long term impact on female reproductive organs."The published information on the effects of SARS-CoV-2 is fairly sparse. However, there is some biologic plausibility that the virus could attack ovarian function directly based on some of the effects of the virus on other organs," she said. "[S]mall studies out of China this year have revealed that 25% of people with COVID have menstrual changes. These appear to return to baseline after the person recovers, and there is nothing to indicate changes in fertility."
According to one of the studies she references, published in Reproductive BioMedicine Online of 177 individuals with COVID-19 with menstrual records, 45 (25%) reported changes in the volume of menstrual blood, and 50 (28%) experienced changes to their menstrual cycles, including lighter bleeding or longer-lasting periods.
Speak with Your Doctor if You Experience These Changes
If you experience prolonged periods, "one or two delayed or changed periods should not cause too much anxiety in the setting of COVID-19 infection," says Dr. Fan. However, she encourages women to speak with their doctor about these types of symptoms.
"It's appropriate to let your [doctor] know that you've had some menstrual irregularity. They may wish to perform other tests, such as a blood count to check for anemia, possible pregnancy, or thyroid function," she said. "If the bleeding is heavier than usual or lasts longer than you feel comfortable with, hormonal treatment options may be available. But knowledge is power, in this case. I think just knowing that it is an expected side effect is reassuring," she added.
As for yourself, follow his fundamentals and help end this surge, no matter where you live—wear a face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene and to protect your life and the lives of others, and don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.