Topic: What We Know About Women’s Health and Vaccines
When federal health officials and the CDC decided to pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for ten days earlier this month, after several women developed a rare blood-clot disorder within two weeks of vaccination, some Americans expressed concern about potential effects the vaccine might have on women’s health. Others pointed out that birth control carries a far higher risk of blood clotting and is nonetheless recommended for contraception and numerous health conditions.
While some of these fears were founded — the blood-clot disorder, while extremely rare, could be fatal — some were not. Vaccines and conspiracies tend to go hand in hand, and this one is no different. Naomi Wolf, for instance, tweeted that she’d seen “hundreds” of reports of women experiencing irregular menstruation as a result of being near vaccinated women. Others, including Oprah-sanctioned influencer Christiane Northrup, have suggested vaccination could cause miscarriage or infertility. Here’s what medical experts say about these claims.
Is birth control riskier than the COVID-19 vaccine?
While countless women have pointed out that the birth-control pill carries a relatively higher risk of blood-clotting complications compared to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the comparison is somewhat misleading, says Rashmi Kudesia, a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist and medical advisor for SimpleHealth. First of all, not every oral contraceptive presents an equal risk — progesterone-only pills carry a “negligible risk,” says Kudesia, and are recommended to people with a family history of blood clotting. Most birth-control pills do contain estrogen, and for those, the risk of clotting is roughly five cases per 10,000 women-years (meaning women taking birth control over time), which is still very low.
The type of clotting seen as a side effect of birth control is also completely different from what we saw with the J&J vaccine, says Kudesia. “What we typically see with birth control is deep vein thrombosis, which is a clot that forms inside of the legs. The symptoms for DVT are quite a bit easier to spot” than those associated with the vaccine (which, again, are exceedingly rare). This context is not intended to make the J&J vaccine sound scarier than it is, but to say that birth control is also very safe. The risk of blood clotting during pregnancy is also much higher than it is on birth control, says Kudesia. “It also bears stating that the risk of blood clots due to getting COVID is also much higher than we’ve seen with the vaccination,” she adds.
Will the COVID-19 vaccine affect my period?
It’s certainly possible that the vaccine might impact your menstrual cycle, though there’s no reason to be alarmed, says Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN and author of The Vagina Bible. Gunter says she’s seen many reports of women experiencing altered periods after getting the vaccine, but adds several caveats worth considering: “People who are paying more attention to their periods may be people who pay more attention to symptoms post-vaccination. It could be stress — the relief of finally getting vaccinated.”
Topic Discussed: What We Know About Women’s Health and Vaccines
About | OB Videos | Insurances Accepted | Blog | Providers | Michael Anthony, MD, FACOG | Noemi Maydew, MD, FACOG | Anne Bond Bonpain, MD, FACOG | Elita Wyckoff, MD, FACOG | Gilberto Rodrigo, MD, FACOG | Jennifer Fraley, MD, FACOG | Heather Flowers | Courtney Braswell | Services | Patient Care | Advanced Care Team | Testimonials | Contact Us | Patient Portal