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Illustration by Marta Pucci

Menstrual Cycle

Does Coronavirus (COVID-19) affect your periods or cycle health?

Here are some facts, resources, and science-backed tips on how to handle COVID-19 as someone who menstruates

by Sarah Toler, DNP, Science Writer for Clue Reviewed by Ekua Yankah, PhD, MPH, Science Team at Clue; and Cornelia Hainer, PhD, Science Team at Clue
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The global epidemic of COVID-19 is impacting the health and personal decision-making of people across the globe.?

?While most households are stocking up on non-perishable foods, people who menstruate have other concerns beyond toilet paper and produce.

?Here's how to prepare for the upcoming weeks:

How many period supplies should I have on hand?

Right now, National Health Protection Agencies like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) simply state the COVID-19 outbreak "could last a long time." While practicing social distancing, trips out of the house for period products might not be ideal. Harvard Health advises everyone to plan on quarantining at home by having "extra supplies on hand."

?What exactly is “extra”? Most people who menstruate usually keep about a month's supply of period products on hand. Two months' worth of period supplies might be a reasonable stash to keep on hand during this outbreak. Remember that while you need to have access to the supplies you need, so do others around you. Buying out a whole store's worth of tampons means someone else won't have any, so aim to be conscientious of the needs of others.

?This outbreak is a good time to consider a reusable menstrual blood collector like a cup, washable pads, or absorbent underwear. (Bonus—social distancing means you might have some time to experiment to find the one that works best for you.) Or, if you’ve ever wanted to try freebleeding, now’s the time to experiment without any social stigma.?

?While you are practicing vigilant hand washing and sanitizing around the house (don’t forget door knobs and cabinet knobs) due to COVID-19, practice the same type of hygiene care with your period products. Boil anything made of silicon after use. Wash reusable pads and underwear with soap in hot water. Wash your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds before and after you change your blood collection product.

?When using disposable period products like pads or tampons, wrap the used product in the wrapper of the new product so that any menstrual blood is not exposed. Toss it in the trash bin (not the toilet).?

?What should I do if I can't get period supplies?

As of today, some manufacturers of period supplies report their supply chains are still producing and delivering at normal speed. It’s unlikely but not impossible that if people become more panicked, tampons and pads might suddenly disappear from the shelves.?

?When there is no other option, we can look to what people who menstruate do with limited resources. When menstrual products aren't available, many people use a small cloth or tissue paper (1). A sock may be thin enough to be worn comfortably in underwear. Everyone who menstruates has had to improvise at some point!?

?What should I do if I can't get contraception or other medication?

?In Italy, where the virus has hit especially hard, all “non-essential” businesses were ordered to close. Pharmacies and grocers remain open, providing access to prescriptions for contraceptives and other medications. This is good news. It's likely that if the outbreak worsens where you live, pharmacies will also still remain open.?

?Yet, other barriers like money or travel might prevent people from accessing prescription contraceptives.?

?If for any reason you can't access your hormonal contraception, use a condom when you have penetrative sex. External/male condoms are 98% effective at preventing unintended pregnancy when always used correctly (2). If it’s been a while since you’ve used a condom, watch a video refresher while you have some time. Male condoms are usually available in pharmacies and supermarkets. Sponges and spermicides also offer some protection against pregnancy, and are available over the counter, but are less effective than condoms (2).

?You can also call your provider to see if it’s possible to get a 60 or 90 day refill of your contraceptive.

?What should I do if I can't access my regular doctor?

?If you need to talk to a healthcare provider for a reproductive or mental health reason, first call your usual provider. They may be set up to see you virtually or be able to call you in a prescription or refill.?

?If you don’t have a regular provider, telemedicine practitioners are available via smartphone or computer. In the U.S., Doctor on Demand and Amwell both offer access to physical and mental health practitioners. In Sweden, France, the UK, Germany, and Norway, Kry offers access to healthcare providers for a fee. The French government recently relaxed telemedicine rules in response to COVID-19, making it easier for people to get access to a provider through a platform called Doctolib. Telemedicine in Brazil is available through Brasil Temedicina.?

Many European public health systems are providing access to healthcare providers online or via phone during this outbreak. Call your local health service to get more information. If you have private insurance, they may also have a hotline or app for telemedicine. Call them to find out more.?

?If you need access to a medication that is considered a controlled substance (like some pain medicines for endometriosis or some anti-anxiety medications), virtual providers might not be able to prescribe it. In this case, contact the last provider who prescribed you this medication.?

?When filling a new or existing prescription, ask your doctor for a 60 or 90 day prescription.

?You’ve probably heard this on the news, but if you have a fever or any other symptom of COVID-19 and are doing okay, the best course of action is to stay at home. If you need advice, call your healthcare provider or arrange a virtual visit. Hospital visits should be reserved for the very ill.

Self-care and menstruation during the coronavirus outbreak

Dealing with a once-in-a-lifetime viral outbreak, plus being isolated at home is leaving a lot of people feeling down. If you're feeling anxious and uncertain, know that your feelings are totally normal and valid.?

Stress can impact both mental and physical health. Some folks with underlying anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) are feeling triggered right now. Likewise, stress may influence cycle length, vaginal bleeding patterns, painful periods, and premenstrual symptoms (3). It’s not likely that this outbreak will impact your cycle, but you can monitor any changes your body might go through by tracking them in Clue. Keep in mind that stress is most likely to be the culprit of any changes to your cycle, not the Coronavirus.

?Self-isolation during COVID-19 means some people may be isolated with an abuser, a potentially dangerous situation. If you are quarantined with an abuser, reach out to your local domestic violence agency. Emerging evidence suggests there is an increased risk for domestic violence during this stressful time (4).?

?If you’re feeling mentally impacted by the Coronavirus news, the best thing to do is to focus on yourself and practice some self care. This can look different for everyone, but some things we suggest are:?

  • Continue to regularly take your prescriptions and/or supplements

  • It might be hard to access your normal healthy foods during social isolation. Still, try not to eat too many junk foods.?

  • Meditate or journal (5)

  • Revisit an old hobby or crafting

  • Fix some things around the house

  • Find an indoor workout routine that you like (6)

  • Maintain your usual sleep schedule (7)

  • Enjoy hot showers and baths if you can (8)

  • Monitor your media intake (9)

??Instead of staying glued to the latest COVID-19 updates, allow yourself to check the news at certain times of day. Try to fit some stretching and deep breathing into each day (10). If you live with partners, roommates, or family, take this time to connect and nurture your relationships.? Check in with friends and neighbors over phone or video—your virtual companionship might help someone cope and help you feel connected (11).?

?And remember–everyone all over the globe is experiencing the same pandemic at the same time. We want to show up for you not only as a company, but as fellow human beings. The Clue team is here for you. If you are looking for resources, you can find more on our Instagram.

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