Can your hormone levels affect the severity of your Covid symptoms?

  • Marie Claire gets the nod from its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission on some of the items you choose to purchase.

  • Like, did you know that prolonged Covid symptoms can affect menopausal and menopausal women more than others?

    If you, like millions of others across the UK, have been affected by Covid-19 in recent years, you know that some symptoms can last much longer than the ten days you are contagious.

    While the typecast initially saw middle-aged men as the worst affected, two clear camps have formed – those most easily infected by Covid-19 and those experiencing debilitating long-term symptoms in the form of long-term Covid. For the latter, the Covid Symptom Tracker app and other research confirm that more young to middle-aged women are dealing with long-term health problems.

    Long Covid refers to the symptoms you experience when you no longer test positive for Covid-19 and, according to the NHS, range from shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, chest pain or pressure, brain fog, insomnia and more. Currently, many women all over the world still experience the said side effects after several years.

    So why do women suffer more than men? What is the connection between long Covid and hormones? Much research has been done on women’s fertility and the Covid vaccine, along with how Covid-19 affects menstruation. But could prolonged Covid affect those going through hormonal changes, such as menopause, more, and could women with conditions like PCOS also be more susceptible?

    Keep scrolling to find out what the latest research thinks. Wondering why you haven’t had Covid yet? A doctor explains seven reasons here.

    Covid and hormones: what the research has found so far

    Interestingly, for a long time, Covid has been shown to be more common in women. Similarly, women are generally more susceptible to post-viral syndromes such as colds and flu.

    Why? We don’t know exactly, but what we do know is that hormones are likely a factor.

    1. Covid-19 causes hormonal changes

    As Dr. Amy Beckley, PhD, explains, COVID absolutely can and has caused hormonal changes. “Typically, we see women have lower estrogen and ovulate later in the cycle,” she shares. “I think it’s because while the body is sick, the brain tells the ovaries that it’s not a good time to carry a child. The good news is that most cycles return to normal within two to three cycles after the infection clears. “

    2. The hormone estrogen helps your cells fight infection

    It has long been accepted that estrogen and their receptors in the body can help your immune response. How? Well, according to a 2022 study, “one way that estrogens affect adaptive immunity is by affecting the levels of circulating antibodies.”

    3. Low estrogen and progesterone levels are likely associated with Long Covid

    But if your body is low on estrogen or progesterone? Good question. A study published in J Immunol 2020 found that women experiencing low estrogen levels experienced more severe cases of Covid-19.

    As Dr. Beckley explains, progesterone is an immunomodulator, meaning it works to reduce the immune response. “During COVID, some people have an enhanced immune response (the cytokine storm) causing prolonged covid and symptoms. Women who have high progesterone and estrogen levels do not mount a strong immune response to the covid virus, and are therefore less likely to die.”

    Although this is not yet scientifically cemented, several researchers and professors have put forward the idea that long Covid may be more likely in women who have low estrogen levels, and that long Covid symptoms may in turn be improved by higher estrogen levels.

    Unrecognizable pregnant woman has morning hot drink

    4. As a woman over 50, you have a 50% lower risk of dying from Covid-19 if you take HRT

    Similarly, women over 50 who took hormone replacement therapy had a medical advantage over those who did not.

    How so? Well, a 2020 study with analyses, the public health records of just under 70,000 women who had Covid showed that those who received HRT treatment had a 50% lower risk of dying from the virus than those who did not.

    5. Long Covid is thought to improve with estrogen replacement

    You remember the headlines from last year when women started reporting irregular periods as a result of Covid-19. Well, an online survey found that as many as 73% of women had noticed a difference after infection.

    Another fun fact: your ovaries produce both estrogen and testosterone, and when you go through menopause or menopause, their levels in your body drop.

    Researchers have hypothesized that prolonged Covid symptoms – and indeed irregular periods – can be improved with regular estrogen levels.

    6. Postmenopausal women have been shown to suffer from more serious infections

    And finally two studies – an article published in British Medical Journal 2020 and one Rxiv paper published the same year – found a link between postmenopausal women and more serious infections of Covid-19.

    Conclusion? It seems that there is a connection between Covid-19 and women’s hormones, but more research needs to be done on the matter so that we can find out how, why and when the virus does this.

    Side view of woman placing cotton swab in antigen sample extraction tube

    “Covid-19 wreaked havoc on my hormone levels. This is how I recovered.”

    Arie* , 27, a mental health technician from Virginia, faced her own challenges with Covid-19 and her hormone levels – and was able to track her body’s changing levels via a hormone tracker, Sample.

    “When I decided to start trying to get pregnant, I wanted to do anything and everything in my power to get pregnant sooner. So, like many other women, I did my research. I already knew I was going to take a pregnancy test every month, but I quickly learned about other hormone tests that can help me reach my goals.”

    “One big thing I learned right away was that, contrary to popular belief, you can’t just get pregnant by having intercourse any old day. The best time to try for a baby is actually right around ovulation, because that’s when the sperm has the best chance of meeting an egg. I started using ovulation tests every cycle to help identify my most fertile days.”

    “While researching the best ovulation tests, I came across Proov Predict & Confirm and discovered that understanding ovulation time is really only part of the story. The Predict & Confirm kit contains two different types of test strips: ovulation tests that help find the best time to “try”, plus a second test (called the PdG test) that you use to follow up a few days after ovulation.

    “PdG tests provide a whole new level of insight by confirming whether ovulation actually occurred and helping you understand the quality of that ovulation. (Yes, there is such a thing as higher and lower quality ovulation!).

    “I used Proov for the first time in November 2021. In November and December, my first tests correctly predicted that I would ovulate soon, and my follow-up PdG tests confirmed that I was indeed ovulating with high quality. I was overjoyed, and my optimism about getting pregnant was skyrocketing.”

    “After my second series of promising test results, I was sure I would be pregnant by the end of the year. In fact, I even started developing early pregnancy symptoms towards the end of my cycle; specifically, a minor head cold. But then things and things got complicated.”

    Arie is now pregnant – but noticed a drastic change in her hormone levels during and after Covid 19

    “As my congestion worsened, I realized it wasn’t pregnancy symptoms after all. I tested positive for covid-19, and on top of the bad news, my period started – a total slump.”

    “After recovering from COVID, I eagerly resumed my journey of trying to conceive. I was excited and confident because my first two test cycles had gone so well. But in my first post-COVID cycle, my results were a shock. “

    “My hormones had shifted wildly from healthy levels before COVID to readings that were completely out of the expected range. My ovulation tests were positive at random points in my cycle, and my PdG levels never rose to their previous high quality level. Without healthy PdG levels after ovulation I knew pregnancy was unlikely.”

    “I felt devastated, and even worse, it never occurred to me that COVID might be to blame. I had no idea why my body was behaving the way it was, and I feared that my chances of conceiving might mysteriously disappear .”

    “Anxious and confused, I turned to the private Proov support group – a group of users and other women trying to conceive where I was introduced to Proov’s founder and CEO, Amy, who personally reviewed my hormone patterns. To my relief, she pointed out that my crazy levels could be a lingering effect of covid that would likely resolve over time. “Keep testing!” she urged me.”

    “So that’s what I did. The next cycle, while my hormones hadn’t returned to their previous healthy levels, they shifted in the right direction. And the following month, things really started to improve. In the Proov Insight app, which I use to track my test results, I could actually see the improvement trends. Slowly but surely, my results returned to the healthy patterns I had seen during my first cycle.”

    “Looks?” Amy sent me a message. “I knew your cycle would sort itself out.” And she was right – my cycle is back to normal. I now see consistent positive ovulation tests before ovulation and perfect PdG patterns after ovulation – indicating my body is ready for pregnancy. It’s incredibly reassuring to have actual data showing that my cycling hormones have fully recovered, and I’m back on track for success.”

    “Covid-19, or any significant health problem, can wreak havoc on your fertility hormone levels. But the good news is that, in most cases, the body just needs a little time to adjust. I recommend simple at-home tests for anyone craving a little extra peace of mind when they are trying to conceive. For me, that has made all the difference.”

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.