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Listen to me!

I was scanning the WaPo headlines yesterday, as I do most days, when this headline grabbed my attention: “Opinion: Why reports of period weirdness after covid shots were ignored.”

Super-quick article summary: a woman started noticing her period flow increased significantly after receiving the Covid-19 vaccination; she contacted a former professor who had written a book about the subject of menstruation to find out if the professor had heard of others having similar responses to the vaccine; she hadn’t, but the professor got her own Covid-19 vax a couple weeks later and “bled so heavily that I was swapping out overnight-strength pads every hour.”

The professor then sent out a query, asking for others’ experiences; she expected to hear from about 500 women, and, instead, got over 165,000 responses with story after story confirming her former student’s experience, and hers, in women having an increase in menstrual flow upon getting the vaccine.

Reading this article, my mind immediately went back to my early 30s when I was dating a guy who had heard melatonin was all the rage for helping with sleep. It helped with hormonal balance of some sort. He started taking it, and so did I. I don’t recall the dosage we took. It was your basic GNC-type supplement.

Within a couple weeks of taking melatonin daily, I got my period, and I experience the heaviest, most raging and heavy menstrual flow I had ever had. Periods weren’t new to me in my early 30s; they were a part of life; I knew my general rhythms and patterns (they were frequent–about every 24 days–and fairly heavy); I knew “my normal;” I knew how to handle the situation. But the flow I experienced after taking the melatonin was unlike anything I’d experienced. I was bleeding through a heavy-flow tampon, a full pad and my jeans within an hour or so.

OK, that was weird. That was odd. That was different. But, why? I thought perhaps I was ill; perhaps I had some endometrial issues or something. I couldn’t figure it out.

I kept taking the melatonin, as I hadn’t suspected it as causal, and then in short order, I got my period again. Again, it was heavy: very, very heavy. Then it dawned on me: it had to be the melatonin, a hormone. I did a little math in my head and got a picture of when I started the supplement and when my menstrual flow got so heavy. Yep, it was the melatonin. No question about it.

reporting in

This would have been about 1995. The internet wasn’t “a thing” as it is now. Online research wasn’t an option. Companies didn’t have email addresses easily found where one could send messages to customer service or corporate headquarters, so I did what I thought was best: I called my local pharmacy.

It was in the evening; I remember that. I placed the call; got connected to the pharmacy; and then I explained to the male pharmacist on the other end of the line that I’d been taking melatonin, my period flow had drastically increased a couple weeks after, and that I wanted to report this side effect to someone who might be in a position of power and influence to help others know about this possible side effect, and to do something about it.

“Melatonin doesn’t cause increased menstrual flow,” he told me.

Me: “I understand it’s a relatively new supplement and you may not yet of heard of this as a side effect, but I’m telling you, from when I started taking it, and my experience, it absolutely does increase menstrual flow in some women.”

Him, again: “Melatonin doesn’t cause increased menstrual flow.”

Me, repeating myself: “Yes, it does; that’s why I’m reporting it to you, so you can let others know.”

Him, again: “Melatonin doesn’t cause increased menstrual flow.”

Me, repeating myself: “Yes, it does. I am proof.”

Him: yada, yada


My frustrations mounting and my sense of patriarchal disrespect on the rise, I finally got off the phone. I didn’t know who to call, or what to do, or even how much I cared if this medical professional couldn’t care enough to listen.

But, oh, how I remember being dismissed.

How I remember being told my experience wasn’t a thing. Wasn’t important. Wasn’t relevant. Had the year when melatonin supplements became “a thing” been 2015 and not 1995; had there been social media as a resource for outreach and connection with others; had their been more information online, or medical research groups I could reach, or something, I probably would have found a sympathetic–or at least a willing-to-listen–ear, but such wasn’t the case.

For me: I stopped taking the melatonin and my menstrual flow returned to “my normal” right away.

So there’s that.


Image by Savannah Nagy.


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