NIH to research COVID vaccine on reproductive cycles, menstruation, impacts on uterus

The National Institutes of Health has awarded $1.67 million to researchers at five institutions to study potential links between coronavirus vaccinations and menstruation, the agency announced Aug. 30.

The five NIH-funded studies, conducted by researchers at Boston University, Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins University, Michigan State University and Oregon Health and Science University,  will likely incorporate between 400,000 and 500,000 participants, including adolescents and transgender and non-binary people, according to Diana Bianchi, director of the agency’s Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which is funding the research along with NIH’s Office of Research on Women’s Health.

Menstrual changes after coronavirus vaccinations could be attributed to immune responses to the vaccines and their impacts on the uterus, as well as to pandemic-related stress, lifestyle changes and contracting the virus itself, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Seattle Times cited Shana Clauson, 45, a woman who reported menstruation problems following the first dose of her Moderna COVID vaccine.

“Is this not being discussed, or is it even being looked at or researched because it’s a ‘woman’s issue?’ ” Clauson asked at the time. “I hope that if this is going to be a side effect for women, that it’s being addressed and women know this could happen.”

“Our goal is to provide menstruating people with information, mainly as to what to expect, because I think that was the biggest issue: Nobody expected it to affect the menstrual system, because the information wasn’t being collected in the early vaccine studies,” said Bianchi.

Results may not be published until the end of next year.

“I’m glad that it’s going to be looked at. I think it’s unfortunate that it took this long,” said Clauson.

The coronavirus vaccine trials did not specifically ask participants whether they saw adverse side effects in their menstrual cycles or volumes, an omission that Bianchi attributes to the fact that “the (FDA) emergency use authorization was really focused on critical safety issues” and “changes to your menstrual cycle is really not a life and death issue,” she said.

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

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