What’s brewing in full force amid the COVID-19 pandemic is an epidemic of fake news and misinformation, generating confusion and insecurity among the masses. Ever since the vaccination has been rolled out to combat the virus, a barrage of rumours the world over is holding people back from taking the jab. The latest one doing the rounds is how getting inoculated on your period, or even five days before and after, can have a significant impact on your menstrual cycle. That’s because women are claimed to have lower immunity, when on their period.
The concern first came to the fore in mid-February in an Israeli newspaper, with some vaccinated women reporting irregular menstrual cycles. It has now reached home ground, but there’s no scientific evidence to support these anecdotal claims.
Dr Niveditha Manokaran, dermatologist and venereologist, says there’s really no truth to such baseless rumours. Women can have any vaccination during their period, and COVID vaccine is no exception.
“Women shed their uterine lining cyclically every month, and cope with pretty much every challenge that is thrown at them, both physical and mental. There’s no evidence to prove that women are immunosuppressed to an extent that they need to isolate themselves from contracting other infections. Neither are we relieving women from their chores and work, during their period. Considering all of the above, let us not spread fake news around the COVID vaccination and its association with menstruation. Menstruation is NOT a contraindication for COVID vaccination,” she adds.
Busting the myth, Dr Tanaya Narendra (MBBS, MSc (Oxon), FRSPH), also known as dr_cuterus on Instagram, adds that vaccinations are meant to build immunity, not lower them, as opposed to some fake claims.
“Your immunity is not lower on your period. There’s also a myth that getting the vaccine will lower your immunity; now, that’s false again. The point of the vaccine is to build your immunity, and to help your body understand that it is a virus, and what it looks like. It’s like showing your body a photo of the virus. If women had lower immunity during their period, they would be in a compromised state for half a month,” she explains.
Periods and the immune system
The immune system is only temporarily suppressed during the menstrual cycle. A study in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution reveals that the body evolves to dampen the immune system to ensure the most viable eggs can be fertilised with the potential sperm.
“Vaccination is absolutely safe for any girl or woman. In fact, it is safe for pregnant women too, but under medical supervision. There is also a myth floating around that vaccination reduces fertility. None of it is true. In fact, if it is recommended for pregnant women, then how is it even possible that menstruating girls will have an issue? During your period, immunity is only slightly lower than usual; that’s all,” says Aditi Gupta, author and co-founder – Menstrupedia.
She also believes that gender and public health are closely interlinked, and with these myths circulating around, women are going to be significantly impacted.
“There’s already a stigma around menstruation, and when meme pages put out these posts or spread fake news, it holds back women and girls to get the vaccination done. My message is especially for mothers, boyfriends, husbands, and fathers — make sure the women in your life are vaccinated at the right time. They should not miss the vaccine, period or no period,” adds Gupta.
Menstrual cycle and COVID-19
There are some women who have noticed heavy bleeding or some other changes, after getting a vaccine. But Dr Narendra feels these are only temporary.
“They won't affect you for the rest of your life; perhaps one cycle will be altered. Remember COVID also impacts your cycle, and impacts you in many other ways than just changing the cycle. It has some long-term neurological repercussions, causing some long-term changes in your brain,” she says.
Scientists are still researching why COVID-19 affects the cycle, but several medical experts say stress has a major role to play. A February 2021 study found 52.6 percent of women reported changes to their period during lockdowns. The altered menstrual cycle was linked to increased personal and familial stress. Some also reported stress caused by their hectic jobs.
A word of advice
While there’s a lot more research that’s being done, Dr Narendra feels it’s time to put an end to the pandemic of misinformation by consuming information from reliable sources or speaking with qualified medical experts.
“First of all, don’t get your information from WhatsApp. Try to get it from someone who is trained in medical science. There are also a lot of influencers putting out information, but please be wary. I suggest you read information that has been put out by approved authorities. If you want to get more information, you could check the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s social media page. There are also credible international health organisations like WHO and American College of Gynecology, who make simple content that is easy to understand,” she concludes.
(Edited by Amrita Ghosh)