The menstrual cycle and the COVID-19 pandemic
Mitra A., Verbakel JY., Kasaven LS., Tzafetas M., Grewal K., Jones B., Bennett PR., Kyrgiou M., Saso S.
Background The impact of COVID-19 virus on menstrual cycles in unvaccinated women is limited. Objective To investigate the prevalence of changes to menstrual cycle characteristics, hormonal symptoms and lifestyle changes prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods A retrospective online cross-sectional survey completed by social media users between July 2020 to October 2020. Participants were living in the United Kingdom (UK), premenopausal status and, or over 18 years of age. Main outcome(s) and measures(s) The primary outcome was to assess changes to menstrual cycle characteristics during the pandemic following the Checklist for Reporting Results of Internet E-Surveys (CHERRIES). Secondary outcomes included assessment of hormonal and lifestyle changes. Results 15,611 social media users completed the survey. Of which, 75% of participants experienced a change in their menstrual cycle, with significantly greater proportions reporting irregular menstrual cycles (P<0.001), bleeding duration more than seven days (P<0.001), longer mean cycle length (P<0.001) and overall bleeding duration (P<0.001). Over half the participants reported worsening of premenstrual symptoms including low mood/depression, anxiety and irritability. When stratified according to COVID-19 infection, there was no significant difference in menstrual cycle changes. Conclusion The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in considerable variation in menstrual cycle characteristics and hormonal symptoms. This appears to be related to societal and lifestyle changes resulting from the pandemic, rather than to the virus itself. We believe this may have an impact on the individual, as well as national economy, healthcare, and population levels, and therefore suggest this should be taken into consideration by governments, healthcare providers and employers when developing pandemic recovery plans.