Stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic led to disturbed ovulation, finds study

Life disruptions and the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic have led to disturbed ovulation with reduced progesterone duration or levels, according to research presented Sunday at ENDO 2022, the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in Atlanta, Ga.

The study was the first to detect ovulatory disorders without disrupting the menstrual cycle during the pandemic.

These silent ovulatory disorders probably explain why so many women who do not use hormonal forms of birth control have reported having early or unexpected periods in the days following a COVID-19 vaccination. “

Jerilynn C. Prior, MD, FRCPC, Professor of Endocrinology, University of British Columbia

Prior and colleagues compared two independent, similarly designed studies 13 years apart: the Menstruation Ovulation Study (MOS), conducted in a group of 301 women from 2006-2008, and MOS2, which studied 112 women during the pandemic. Both studies included menstruating women between the ages of 19-35 years who did not take systemic or combined hormonal contraceptives.

The first MOS was used as a control to compare with the MOS2 cohort’s experiences during the pandemic. All participants in both studies completed a comprehensive health, reproductive, and lifestyle questionnaire and were asked to keep a daily diary of their menstrual cycles and general life experiences.

For MOS2, ovulation was documented using a validated quantitative basal temperature. Researchers will confirm MOS2 hormonal characteristics using saliva progesterone levels. For the MOS cohort, the researchers assessed ovulation by measuring urinary progesterone levels.

Nearly two out of three women who participated in the study during COVID-19 did not ovulate normally, Prior said. The women experienced either short luteal phases, in which an egg was released without enough time from ovulation for pregnancy, or anovulation, which means that no egg was released at all.

In comparison, the MOS study found that only 10 percent of women experienced ovulatory disorders. The MOS2 and MOS studies showed similar body weights, body mass index values, and menstrual cycle and flow lengths. Thus, the women in MOS2 did not experience any obvious signs of reproductive disruption.

Menstrual cycle diary© analyzes for MOS2 showed significantly increased anxiety, depression, frustration, (overall negative moods), perceived stress from outside, sleep problems and headaches compared to MOS.

“By comparing the two studies, and especially their daily diaries, we can conclude that the SARS-CoV2 pandemic life disorders cause silent ovulatory disorders within mostly regular menstrual cycles – providing a unique experiment of nature,” Prior said.

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