UAE: Painful periods emerge as a post-Covid symptom in some women

Medics explained the intensity of changes in menstrual cycle has been linked to the severity of the Coronavirus infection

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Nandini Sircar

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Photo: PTI
Photo: PTI

Published: Thu 25 Jan 2024, 6:00 AM

More women in the UAE have reported experiencing painful periods after being infected by Covid-19. At least 10 per cent of women in the country started experiencing onset dysmenorrhea after being infected by Coronavirus, revealed a recent study conducted at Latifa Hospital in Dubai.

'Effects of the Covid-19 Infection on Women's Menstrual Cycle: A Retrospective Study at Latifa Hospital, Dubai,' sheds light on the potential impact of the virus on women's health. The research included 705 participants from various ethnic backgrounds, comprising reproductive-aged women (18-55 years old) who had recovered from Covid-19 infection.

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The finding revealed that “90 per cent of the participants reported not experiencing painful periods after having Covid-19, whereas only 10 per cent reported experiencing pain. Similarly, 81 per cent reported no change in menstrual flow rate, whereas 19 per cent reported a change.” (graph here)

Meanwhile, the report also mentioned menstruation is an understudied research topic, and there is a literature gap in menstrual changes after Covid-19 infection. “Little is known about the influence of Covid-19 on the menstrual cycle. A study by Khan et al. showed a positive relationship between the severity of infection and menstrual disturbances; however, the study was limited due to its small sample size.”

Severity of infection linked to pain

Khaleej Times reached out to doctors at private hospitals across the country to understand if and how the Covid-19 infection impacted the menstrual cycle in women. Medics have explained the intensity of these changes has generally been linked to the severity of the infection.

Dr Lara Koussayer, Specialist Obstetrics and Gynaecology, NMC Royal Women's Hospital, Abu Dhabi, said, “It was observed that these changes increased with the increase in the severity of the woman’s infection and her need to be admitted to the hospital for treatment or a severe fever. It is believed that the reason is the body's exposure to severe disease (stress) rather than the virus itself.”

Dr Lara Koussayer
Dr Lara Koussayer

Koussayer highlighted that, especially during the first three months of infection, certain changes were observed in the menstrual cycle on more than one level.

She said, “There was a change in the regularity of the menstrual cycle, such as a delay or irregularity in the menstrual cycle. These symptoms improved after the first three months of infection. Then there was a change like the menstrual cycle, such as an increase or decrease in the usual number of days of bleeding, as also a change in the amount of blood lost each month.”

The percentage of females seeking clinical attention for dysmenorrhea is said to be at least 5 to 10 per cent, with the age range varying from 13 to 50.

Young girls typically present with primary dysmenorrhea, while older women may experience secondary dysmenorrhea due to other medical conditions.

Prolonged cycles after infection

Echoing similar observations, Dr Kranti Lohokare Jadhav, Specialist Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Aster Hospital Sharjah, said, “Studies have shown that SARS-CoV-2 infection can impact menstrual cycles, resulting in a decrease in menstrual volume and a prolongation of the menstrual cycle. Approximately 20 per cent of Covid-19 patients demonstrated prolonged menstrual cycles compared to their normal cycles before becoming ill, highlighting the potential influence of Covid-19 on menstrual health.”

Dr Kranti Lohokare Jadhav
Dr Kranti Lohokare Jadhav

Healthcare professionals also emphasised that it’s crucial to understand that various factors can influence menstrual irregularities, and attributing them solely to Covid-19 may oversimplify the complex interchange of health conditions and stress.

Dr Amal Hassan Abddelaziz, head of obstetrics and gynecology, Thumbay University Hospital Ajman, said, “Primary dysmenorrhea is associated with the normal menstrual process. Uterine contractions typically cause pain or spasms as the uterus sheds its lining and the passage of blood through the cervix. This type of dysmenorrhea is commonly observed in girls and is often manageable.”

Dr Amal Hassan Abddelaziz
Dr Amal Hassan Abddelaziz

When to seek medical help?

In most cases, self-care measures can effectively manage the discomfort associated with menstrual pain. Applying heat to the lower abdomen, such as using a hot water bag, a warm bath, mild pain relievers, and regular exercise, can address the symptoms.

On the other hand, secondary dysmenorrhea is more challenging, which means the pain is severe, disrupting daily activities, or is accompanied by new or worsening symptoms. It is advisable to seek medical attention.

“It can be related to endometriosis, adenomyosis, or fibroids,” said Abddelaziz.

This means the pain is associated with specific medical conditions affecting the reproductive organs.

”The treatment of primary dysmenorrhea may include NSAIDS, acetaminophen, birth control pills, hormone treatment, dietary changes, vitamins, exercise, heat, or massage. Secondary dysmenorrhea must be treated according to the pathological cause of dysmenorrhea,” said Dr Suzan Mahmoud Al Tabarani, Specialist in Obstetrics & Gynecology, Burjeel Specialty Hospital, Sharjah.

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