Can You Get the COVID-19 Vaccine on Your Period?

Menstrual products.

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Key Takeaways

  • People have reported a change in their periods during the pandemic, which is likely attributed to stress from forced isolation and fear of COVID-19 exposure.
  • There is no scientific evidence linking changes in the menstrual cycle to the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Medical experts advise everyone should get the COVID-19 vaccine when available.

Reserving an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine has been difficult, to say the least. So, when you do manage to secure a time, the last thing you want is to reschedule. While there are some legitimate reasons to postpone your shot—such as testing positive for COVID-19—being on your period isn’t one of them.

The concern was first reported in mid-February by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, with some vaccinated Israeli women reporting irregular periods. And since, other women have taken to social media to share their personal accounts of heavier or irregular periods post-vaccine.

But there’s currently no scientific evidence to support these anecdotal claims, or explain why it may be happening.

“Menstruation is not a contraindication—[a reason not to receive a vaccine due to the harm that it would cause the patient]—to COVID vaccination,” Javeed Siddiqui, MD, an infectious disease specialist at TeleMed2U in California, tells Verywell. He says only people who have had a history of severe allergic reactions to vaccines should consult with a healthcare professional to take necessary safety precautions—such as extra monitoring after vaccination.

In fact, experts say you are at a greater risk of developing long-term menstrual complications after a COVID-19 infection than from the vaccines.

Periods and the Immune System

The immune system is temporarily suppressed during certain phases of the menstrual cycle. According to a 2018 review in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution, the body evolved to dampen the immune response and ensure the most viable eggs were available to fertilize with potential sperm.

The 2018 review suggests the body may be trading some immunity for a better shot at getting pregnant. This could explain why some people report an increase in flare-ups for disease during ovulation and menstruation. Also, a greater risk of infection was associated with the menstrual cycle's mid-luteal phase (after ovulation but before menstruation) as progesterone levels increase.

“The reason for the decreased immunity may be due to the need for less immune cells that would attack an implanted embryo," Kim Langdon, MD, an OB-GYN at Medzino based in Ohio, tells Verywell. "However, once menses occurs, there [is] no implantation, anyhow."

When it comes to vaccination, Langdon acknowledges there is little research to confirm whether the different phases of the menstrual cycle negatively impact vaccine efficacy. While unknown, she suggests it’s unlikely to occur.

What This Means For You

No matter what part of your menstrual cycle you are in, you should not skip out on the COVID-19 vaccine. The three FDA-approved vaccines have been rigorously tested for safety and effectiveness. The risk of developing severe infection and menstrual problems from long COVID-19 far exceeds any unverified risk from vaccination. If you have any healthcare concerns regarding immunization, you should speak with a trusted healthcare professional.

Menstrual Cycle Problems and Long COVID

While more men than women have died from COVID-19, more women are experiencing long COVID-19 symptoms that persist for months.

A recently published preprint study in March—which has not undergone peer review—found middle-aged White women with at least two preexisting medical conditions were more likely to experience persistent COVID-19 symptoms. Likewise, another preprint study reported younger women under the age of 50 did not fully recover seven months after COVID-19 infection. The women in the study were seven times more likely to experience breathlessness and twice as likely to feel more exhausted than men of the same age.

How do periods come into play? “Women are indicating a change in their menstrual cycles [during long COVID]," Siddiqui says. "This change includes frequency, duration, flow, intensity, and pain level."

Scientists are still researching why long COVID-19 affects the cycle, but stress may play a role. Langdon says any stress from an illness or psychological stress from a prolonged quarantine could cause irregular menstrual cycles. A February 2021 preprint study found 52.6% of women reported changes to their period during lockdowns. The altered menstrual cycle was linked to increased personal and familial stress. Stress from a job was also linked to increased bleeding during your period.

Another reason could be the coronavirus’s effect on reproductive hormones. A preprint study from China found people with menopause who had low estrogen and anti-müllerian hormone levels were less likely to experience severe COVID-19 infection or a need for hospitalization.

The jury is still out on which hormones are most affected by COVID-19. A more recent study published in January 2021 found about 18% of women of child-bearing age experienced more extended periods and 3% had shorter periods, when dealing with a COVID-19 infection—but anti-müllerian hormone levels did significantly differ.

Given the health risks associated with COVID-19 infection, Siddiqui stresses that stopping the coronavirus pandemic requires all hands on deck. It is critical for all individuals who can receive [the] COVID vaccine," Siddiqui says. "We need you; we need you to get vaccinated.”

A Word From Our Medical Reviewer

Of the many things to consider when getting the vaccine, the connection of the menstrual cycle is a recent topic. Although the case reports are interesting, we do not have enough to tell us whether this is a causal relationship or a direct link. Right now, receiving the vaccine is of utmost importance and millions of women are receiving the vaccines daily. Your period should not stop you from getting vaccinated.

What we do know with certainty is that physiologically, the parts of the brain associated with fever induction and inflammation also are the same parts of the brain that control the hormonal regulation of the menstrual cycle. Hormones do have the ability to turn inflammatory responses on and off. Therefore, there is good cause for more studies devoted to women's vaccine outcomes and reproductive health. 

Jessica Shepherd, MD
Chief Medical Officer, Verywell Health
Jessica Shepherd
Personal Detail

Dr. Shepherd is board-certified in obstetrics-gynecology and is affiliated with Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Shepherd appears regularly as an expert on Good Morning America, The Today Show, and more.

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The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page. 

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