The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded one-year supplemental grants totaling $1.67 million to five institutions, including Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH), to explore potential links between COVID-19 vaccination and menstrual changes.
Lauren Wise, professor of epidemiology at BUSPH, and a team of researchers at BUSPH and Boston University School of Medicine (MED), received $300,000 to examine the potential impact of COVID-19 vaccines on menstruation among participants in the BUSPH-based Pregnancy Study Online (PRESTO).
PRESTO is an NIH-funded ongoing study that enrolls women trying to conceive, and follows them from preconception through six months after delivery. Since the study’s inception, women have reported data about their typical menstrual characteristics while not using hormones, and PRESTO questionnaires have been updated to include questions on COVID-19 infection, vaccination, and pandemic-related stressors. The questionnaires are available in English and Spanish.
For the study, Wise and colleagues will analyze menstruation data collected during up to six menstrual cycles from bimonthly online questionnaires and from Kindara.com, a menstrual charting app. The researchers will examine the association between COVID vaccination and cycle irregularity, cycle length, intensity of bleed, duration of bleed, intermenstrual spotting/bleeding, and pain associated with menses. Two sets of analyses will be performed: one that compares menstrual factors between vaccinated and unvaccinated participants, and one that compares menstrual factors among vaccinated participants before and after vaccination.
“Given PRESTO’s ongoing prospective data collection throughout the pandemic, recruitment of non-contracepting women from all 50 U.S. states, and prospective collection of menstrual data, the study is uniquely-positioned to analyze data on SARS-CoV-2 vaccination and menstruation and provide essential information to the scientific community and the public on vaccine safety,” says Wise, principal investigator of PRESTO.
Some women have reported experiencing irregular or skipped menstrual periods, bleeding that is heavier than usual, and other menstrual changes after receiving COVID-19 vaccines. Numerous factors—including COVID-19-related infection and stress, and lifestyle changes—can cause temporary changes in the menstrual cycle, which is regulated by complex interactions between the body’s tissues, cells and hormones.
The supplemental grants are funded by NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the NIH Office of Research on Women's Health.
Other members of Wise’s team in the Department of Epidemiology at BUSPH include research assistant professor, Amelia Wesselink; doctoral student, Sharonda Lovett; senior data analyst, Tanran Wang; postdoctoral associate, Mary Willis; research assistant, Martha Koenig; and professors Kenneth Rothman and Elizabeth Hatch; as well as MED researcher Rebecca Perkins, associate professor of obstetrics & gynecology.
About Boston University School of Public Health
Founded in 1976, Boston University School of Public Health is one of the top five ranked private schools of public health in the world. It offers master's- and doctoral-level education in public health. The faculty in six departments conduct policy-changing public health research around the world, with the mission of improving the health of populations—especially the disadvantaged, underserved, and vulnerable—locally and globally.