COVID-19's impact on women's health
- Health Hub 101, Taboo Topic
- 11 Oct, 2022
It would be fascinating to look at how the disease has directly impacted women's health now that the COVID-19 epidemic has been going on for more than two years and there is clearly light at the end of the tunnel. It was evident early on in the epidemic that not everyone was impacted equally by COVID-19.
COVID-19 and pregnancy
What is known about how COVID-19 affects pregnant women was recently detailed in a publication published in the journal Physiological Reviews.
Pregnant women were cautioned to take extra care early in the epidemic to prevent infection. In fact, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics advised against scheduling routine prenatal care appointments and instead favoring video or telephone consultations.
This recommendation was made because pregnant women are more likely to contract severe illnesses when exposed to other coronaviruses, such as those that cause Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) (MERS).
The body changes in a variety of ways throughout pregnancy to improve the environment for the developing fetus. The body's response to COVID-19 may be affected by some pregnancy changes. For instance, the lungs undergo alterations that may raise the risk for severe infections and changes that increase the likelihood of blood clots.
Although modifications to a woman's immune system during pregnancy reduce the likelihood of inflammation, it is yet unclear how this may alter the course of the condition.
On the one hand, these modifications can make it more difficult for the body to get rid of the infection. On the other side, they might lessen severe COVID-19 symptoms brought on by an immune system overreaction.
In general, we still lack sufficient data to definitively determine how COVID-19 affects expectant women. Most pregnant women who contract COVID-19 have no symptoms or very minor illness that has no long-term effects. While other medical facilities have not, some have reported an increase in the number of pregnant patients admitted to hospitals. To fully comprehend the distinctions between the two, more information is required.
COVID-19 and periods
There have been numerous accounts of patients reporting abnormalities to their menstrual cycles both while they were ill with COVID-19 and even after the infection had been treated.
Larger blood clots, longer and irregular periods, lighter and heavier flow, and both are examples of these menstrual alterations. There are not many studies that can be used to explain what is happening, despite the fact that some of these changes have been described in peer-reviewed journals.
During a COVID-19 infection, some persons have alterations in their sex hormone levels. This may clarify why people's periods fluctuate when they are ill. However, it does not explain the changes that patients go through after getting rid of the virus.
After using COVID-19 to eradicate the infection, some people continue to have crippling symptoms like fever, exhaustion, or headaches for weeks at a time. This is referred to as "long COVID," and the owners are referred to as "long-haulers." Approximately 80% of those who report long-lasting COVID symptoms are women, compared to just 20% of men.
Changes in menstrual cycles are reported by those with lengthy COVID, which can be even more crippling. The reasons behind the modifications in the menstrual cycle observed with extended COVID are still unknown.
Doctors put out a number of theories, including elevated stress levels and hormonal changes brought on by the virus. It's also possible that some individuals have unidentified illnesses.
Many people are not receiving the care they require because access to routine, unrelated COVID-related medical care has drastically decreased over the previous year.
Additionally, after receiving the vaccine, side effects are more severe in women. Once again, it's unclear why this is. Other vaccines have the same result. It's likely that more adverse effects are reported by women than by men. But women are also known to have more reactive immune systems than men, and they also have more autoimmune illnesses.
Antibody responses, for instance, are up to two times more in women than in men. This suggests that there may be a connection between a more active immune system and greater levels of sex hormones because these changes are more pronounced in young adults.
Many immune-related genes are located on the X chromosome, which women have two copies of while males only have one, which is an intriguing theory that may help to explain these sex disparities in immune function.
In order to prevent the X chromosome's genes from being expressed twice in a cell, one of its copies is typically inactivated. There is proof that 15% of the second X chromosome's genes in women survive inactivation and are expressed at higher levels.
In addition, women often require lesser doses of medications to get the same impact than men do. Typically, clinical trials test the best dose for several groups. However, this was not done during the COVID-19 vaccine trials. It is crucial to inform women of the potential adverse effects and that these are an indication that the vaccine is effective until various dosing schedules are evaluated.
On the plus side, there are reports that some COVID sufferers feel better after receiving the vaccine. Given that this is a very recent event, it is too soon to say what is happening. What is known is that only some persons experience an improvement, while most experience no change and a small number experience an adverse change.
Doctors and scientists have a few theories to explain what is occurring, ranging from the vaccine aiding the body's efforts to eradicate any remaining virus to this being a brief reprieve similar to those we occasionally observe with other immunizations. When the findings from these studies are out in a few months, I will be eager to see them.