These COVID times have been quite challenging for women, mentally, physically, and in many other critical ways.
According to a study at the University of Chicago Medicine, “U.S. women experienced an increased incidence of health-related socioeconomic risks (HRSRs), such as food insecurity and interpersonal violence, early in the COVID-19 pandemic. This was associated with “alarmingly high rates” of mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.” The research was published on April 5 in the Journal of Women’s Health.
Some women who have had COVID can experience long-term effects from their infection, called “Long COVID.” Long COVID can easily be confused with the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause (and vice versa). For example, some of the symptoms of Long COVID are brain fog, headaches, dizziness, poor sleep, reduced concentration, muscle pains, and fatigue. If you are in perimenopause or menopause, these symptoms may be all too familiar. For more information on the symptoms of menopause, check out my Menopause Mondays Symptoms Chart.
Science Direct reported that a recent study of 460 women found the mean age of people with Long COVID was 46.5 years, with 82.8% females, and 36% of women reporting disturbances to their menstrual cycles.
Another study analyzed changes in menstrual cycles of individuals ages 18 to 45 years before, during, and after COVID-19 vaccinations and reported similar findings. I asked my 42-year-old daughter if she noticed any changes post-vaccinations. She replied, “My periods are heavier and more painful than ever. She also mentioned that many of her friends described changes, as well.” My 40-year-old daughter-in-law said, “Each time I took the vaccine, my period would get screwed up. It would either come a week late or a week early.” Of course, both were thrilled that we have vaccines and boosters and would take them again for COVID protection.
The University of Chicago Medicine study further states, “The symptoms of Long COVID may partly be due to the disturbance of physiological ovarian steroid hormone production and/or an altered chronic inflammatory response due to sex-based immunomodulation.” In lay speak, this means that Long COVID can cause chronic inflammation that could disrupt sex hormones.
It was interesting to note that this study also observed changes in women’s periods due to COVID. They state, ‘’50% of women reported that their periods had stopped or changed since their infection, and 80% stated that their periods had not returned to how they were before their COVID infection. Interestingly, 62% of responders reported that their symptoms of Long COVID were worse on the days before their periods when hormone levels are usually at their lowest. The overwhelming majority of women, 70%, thought that some of their Long COVID symptoms could be a result of either their perimenopause or menopause. However, 84% of women had never been asked by a healthcare professional about whether or not they could be perimenopausal or menopausal. They were given no advice about treating their perimenopause or menopause.”
In another small study of 300 patients, where the mean age was 65.3 years, and most patients were women, it was concluded, “Men had higher disease severity than premenopausal women, while the differences disappeared between postmenopausal women and men. These findings support aggressive treatment for the poor prognosis of postmenopausal women in clinical practice.”
Clearly, more research needs to be done on whether postmenopausal women are more susceptible to more severe diseases from COVID and how hormonal fluctuations during perimenopause and even menstruation affect the disease outcomes. Remember, a more aggressive COVID treatment may be warranted if you are post-menopausal. Do not be shy about speaking to your Menopause Specialist for guidance.
It is no surprise that hormone changes, especially drops in estrogen, may play a role in the severity of COVID-19 in some women. I hope there will be more studies on this in the months ahead. As the WHAM report pointed out, women are the majority of the U.S. population, nearly 50% of the workforce, control over 60% of personal wealth, are responsible for over 85% of consumer spending, and make over 80% of the healthcare decisions. The medical research gender gap is a major obstacle to not only advancing our health but also to advancing our economy.
In addition to understanding the implications that COVID 19 and menopause may have on one another, it is important to explore other risk factors – including older age and any pre-existing conditions. The Center for Disease Control lists these for your review.
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*EllenDolgen.com does not recommend, endorse, or make any representation about any tests, studies, practices, procedures, treatments, services, opinions, healthcare providers, physicians, or medical institutions that may be mentioned or referenced.