Woman holding tiny pink cup with miniature straw. Woman holding tiny pink cup with miniature straw.

Can Catching a Virus Really Mess With Your Period? Here’s What Science Says

First off, when I heard about the concept, I thought it to be far fetched. I mean like, really? But although it sounds a little less likely but you will be surprised to know that a virus indeed can delay your period, directly or indirectly it can affect your menstrual cycle.

And I will tell you why. You will perhaps know that a menstrual cycle length can vary due to a lot of reasons. There can be missed periods or reduced menstrual volume, even longer menstrual cycles can happen.

Some of the reasons that affect the menstrual cycle are stress, use of birth control, weight gain or loss, change in a workout, and many more factors.

Stress is a very big factor and has been elaborately described below. Other than stress, if a person suddenly puts on a lot of weight it becomes very difficult for the body to ovulate, conversely if you suddenly lose a lot of weight it might lead to irregular cycles.

If the amount of workout increases, gradually the body develops acceptance however, if the exercise gets very intense it becomes difficult for the body to cope with it and affects your reproductive health.

If you are undergoing hormone therapy, it will temporarily alter sex hormones, and if there is a change in the medication it might affect your menstruation too.

If we consider medical reasons then, polycystic ovary syndrome and hypothyroidism are two causes of disturbed menstruation cycles.

The Icy Whiz team talked to Dr Jesse Hu, Consultant General Surgeon, Breast, Thyroid, and Endocrine Surgery, about the intricate relationship between viral infections and menstrual cycles. Here is what she said:

Jesse Hu
Jesse Hu

“The immune system and the endocrine system are intricately linked, with immune responses to infections or vaccines that can lead to increased production of cytokines and other inflammatory mediators.

These immune factors can influence the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis, which regulates the hormones responsible for the menstrual cycle.

Factors that can contribute to menstrual changes include immune activation, stress, infection, and viral infections. The body’s response to a virus or vaccine involves the activation of the immune system, which can temporarily disrupt hormone levels and lead to menstrual changes.

The body might also prioritize energy use towards fighting the virus and away from reproductive functions, temporarily disrupting menstrual cycles.

For example, cytokines can impact the secretion of Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) from the hypothalamus, which in turn affects the production of Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and Luteinizing hormone (LH) from the pituitary gland.

These hormones are important for ovulation and the menstrual cycle. Disruptions here can lead to irregularities such as altered cycle length or changes in menstrual flow.

Insight into how vaccines influence hormonal regulation could help in designing vaccines that are less likely to impact menstrual cycles while still being effective at preventing infection.

With better understanding, doctors can also offer more informed advice to patients experiencing menstrual irregularities post-vaccination or infection, reassuring and managing their concerns more effectively.

Knowledge of how infections affect different aspects of women’s health can lead to more personalized healthcare approaches, recognizing the unique responses of women to infections and vaccines.”

Like I experienced Stress and Menstrual Irregularities Due to the Pandemic

If you are a person who gets very regular menstrual cycles, it might be concerning even if it gets delayed by a couple of days. And mine got delayed for like a week or so regularly during COVID.

There are various reasons, the fear of catching the virus, the uncertainty of its effects, the fear of losing a loved one, the problems with the office, and working from home.

There has been so much to stress about during the pandemic that menstrual cycle changes happened too much, disruptions have affected women’s health and there have been noticeable changes in their lives along with menstrual changes.

The Icy WHiz team talked to Sujatha Vivek, Owner of North Atlanta Women’s Care, about the impacts of viral infections on menstrual cycles. Here is what she said:

Sujatha Vivek - Featured
Sujatha Vivek

“The interplay between viral infections, immune responses, hormonal fluctuations, and menstrual irregularities is complex and multifaceted.

Viral infections can trigger immune responses that affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis, leading to hormonal imbalances. These imbalances can result in menstrual irregularities, such as altered cycle length, flow, and symptoms.

Factors contributing to these changes include:

  • Immune System Activation: Viral infections activate the immune system, which releases cytokines and other inflammatory mediators that can disrupt hormonal regulation.
  • Direct Viral Effects: Some viruses may directly affect ovarian or endometrial tissues, impacting menstrual function.
  • Vaccination Responses: Vaccines can temporarily activate the immune system similarly to infections, potentially leading to short-term menstrual changes.

Understanding these mechanisms can inform future research by highlighting the need to study the menstrual cycle as a vital sign of women’s health.

Public health initiatives should include monitoring menstrual health following infections and vaccinations, providing accurate information, and supporting women experiencing menstrual irregularities.

This approach can lead to better healthcare strategies and improved reproductive health outcomes.”

How Illness Impacts Hormones?

The menstrual cycle is controlled and regulated by an array of hormones, and these hormones are also continually interacting with the immune system so they impact the whole body.

Stress impacts our hormonal system in various ways for example if a person is under a lot of stress before they are ovulating then the brain is signaled to not prepare the body for pregnancy so this delays the release of ovulation causing hormones, which eventually delays your menstrual cycles as these are very much affected by your mental health.

If the stress is perpetual, then it might cause no ovulation which leads to missing periods. If there is a period of stress after ovulation that leads to a shorter luteal phase, which causes an early period.

Here also the ulterior motive of the body is to not get pregnant, and to prevent pregnancy the body shortens the luteal phase so the process of conceiving a zygote is not possible.

There have been a lot of cases reported where women have changes in their menstruation cycles during and after Covid, if that is via the disease or the vaccine dose we do not know the exact reason yet. I did too – and I had to go to the doctor to find out why.

For patients who have been severely ill with any virus have experienced serious impacts on their cycles. Severe illness with the disease led to patients having longer cycles than before. And this can happen with any virus – it’s just that we don’t notice it as much.

Emerging research into the effects of COVID-19 vaccines on menstrual cycles represents a frontier in understanding how our immune responses intersect with reproductive health, inviting a broader dialogue on vaccine side effects and women’s health.”

Lhea ROY – Public Health Expert

In fact, more research reveals that these effects terminated two to three months after their discharge from the hospital.

Little research even supports that the time of the cycle you are in when you get infected by the virus also makes a difference as to how much your cycle will be affected.

In some days of the cycle, the hormone levels are different than the others which changes the body’s immune response towards these hormones.

There have been various studies conducted across the globe to study the effect of pandemic stress on menstruation.

Researchers found that there has been normal to no change after the first dose of vaccine, however after the second dose of vaccine for the novel coronavirus different repercussions were seen.

Some people observed heavier bleeding than usual, another set observed delays in their cycle. More than 40% of the participants however felt that after the third cycle (from the second dose) they did not really feel the influence, and the symptoms therefore were temporary.

“Viral infections can subtly yet significantly disturb the hormonal orchestra governing menstrual cycles, revealing how closely our reproductive health is intertwined with our immune system’s battles.”

Rajeev Kumar – Immunology and Reproductive Health Specialist

It has been medically reviewed that although there have been changes in menstruation, results as such have been observed with fertility in men or women when compared before and after the pandemic.

Research has also revealed that women affected by endometriosis or PCOS have been affected more by the infection than others.

As these people are already susceptible to cycle length changes they are more prone to getting affected even by the two doses of the vaccine.

We interviewed Matthew Casavant, a Physician and Owner of South Lake OBGYN, on menstrual irregularities and viral infections. Here is an excerpt from the interview:

Matthew Casavant
Matthew Casavant

“Reflecting on the complex interplay between viral infections and menstrual cycles involves understanding the nuanced roles of the immune system and hormonal fluctuations.

In my practice, I’ve observed how stressors, including infections, can disrupt hormonal balance, often leading to irregular menstrual cycles.

This observation aligns with documented research suggesting that the immune response to a virus can temporarily alter hormone levels, impacting the regularity and nature of menstrual periods.

From a clinical perspective, cases of increased menstrual irregularities were noticeably more reported during widespread viral outbreaks, such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

Patients often presented with heavier, delayed, or skipped periods, which likely resulted from the body’s immune response to the virus.

Hormonal studies in these cases showed elevated cortisol levels, a hormone released during stress, which can suppress normal reproductive hormone functioning.

Understanding these dynamics is crucial for guiding future public health policies and reproductive health research. By recognizing how viral infections impact menstrual health, healthcare providers can better advise patients and manage treatment during and post-infection.

This knowledge is vital for developing targeted therapies that address the reproductive side effects of systemic viral infections and ensuring women have the necessary support during these times.

Given the potential long-term implications on fertility and menstrual health, ongoing research is paramount to developing preventative strategies and therapeutic interventions that consider the unique needs of women’s health in the context of immune challenges.”

Other Side-Effects of the Vaccine

Not only the period cycle, but other systems of the body are also affected by the vaccine doses.

People have experienced nausea, fatigue, fevers, and chills. Along with the general symptoms like pain, redness, and swelling.

Some feel that every different brand of the vaccine had different side effects on the body, although this could even be medical propaganda as no concrete results have been proven, but this surely has led scientists to find new methods of disease control.

To sum up we can safely say that if you feel any irregular trends in your periods you should primarily consider testing for pregnancy.

If that is not the case and the condition lasts for a long time and is accompanied by other symptoms as well then consider visiting a doctor and getting treatment for the same.

Guest Author: Saket Kumar

Last Updated on June 1, 2024 by soubhik


Anushree Khandelwal
  1. Yes, I remember often facing these issues and my friends will say “Looks like your monthly calendar got lost”. Which was never funny for me as it created more stress for me. And it’s good that someone is out there discussing or publishing article on these topics, because it’s really works like a guide for girls who don’t have people to talk about this.

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