Contrary to trends in other countries, women account for more than half of COVID-19 cases, as reported by the Public Health Agency of Canada. While there is no single explanation to explain this circumstance, studies and analyses have pointed out some very important linkages between transmission, symptoms, and effects on women. Here are things that you need to know about COVID-19 and women’s health.
Prevalence of COVID-19 Among Women
Although symptoms of comorbidities were comparable between men and women, the latter is less at risk for worse outcomes and death when faced with COVID-19. Women have a more robust immune response to most disease-causing viruses and bacteria, which is attributed to X chromosomes having the ability to improve key immune factors.
So why have there been more reported COVID-19 cases for women?
The answer is multi-layered. First, women are more likely to work in professions involving interaction with other people, like jobs in nursing homes, healthcare, and the service industry. In fact, a peer-reviewed study published in the Public Library of Science found that women healthcare workers are also often overworked and less protected, resulting in poorer body constitutions. This mistreatment is also prominent in various social, race, and employment areas. For instance, women accounted for most of the employment losses, which meant that they had to cut costs on health expenditures as well.
Effects of COVID-19 on Women
Women were found to experience more severe side effects even after taking the vaccine, as explained in COVID-19 research published in Nature. Among women, more common symptoms include fatigue, muscle aches, and low blood pressure. All three were also reported to be persisting after-effects in what is now being called a post-COVID syndrome. But much like most cases in men, middle-aged women have a higher risk of manifesting more intense symptoms.
COVID-19 and Reproductive Health
COVID-19 has also been found to cause various effects on women’s reproductive health. Some women, especially those who have tested positive, reported changes in their menstrual cycles and sex hormone levels during and after acquiring the disease. Studies have also found a higher risk for pregnant women, as their body adapts and changes in such a way that accommodates the baby. But as an after-effect, pregnancy also increases possibilities for severe infection. These changes could also mean that the body will have a harder time ridding itself of the virus.
Moreover, a report from Research and Markets informs us that a big percentage of women around the world are active users of contraception. More specifically, many use oral contraceptives, which SymptomFind’s overview of birth control pills notes as the safest way (and most effective way) for women to take control of their reproductive health. It’s also one of the most affordable, making it very popular.
However, oral contraceptives are also associated with some risk of thromboembolism or blood clotting due to the estrogen in the pill. COVID-19 is also reported to have blood clots as a potential side effect, though minor. This is why it’s advised that women with COVID-19 or have recently recovered from it to consider switching their contraceptive to non estrogen-containing ones, such as implants, cervical caps, or sponges.
The Future of Women in a Post-Pandemic World
Despite alert levels fluctuating alongside spikes in COVID-19 cases, we see the light at the end of the tunnel with more people getting vaccinated and getting booster shots. The COVID-19 omicron strain has also been reported to be a key factor that could potentially turn the virus from its pandemic phase into an endemic one — a level where it is no longer considered a threat to the human populace. The flu, for instance, is endemic. People will eventually develop some immunity to the virus, and contacting it will never prove fatal nor harmful.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that we get to lower our guard against the disease, especially for women with higher risk and existing health issues. It’s still important that we keep safer by getting vaccinated, practicing health precautions, and minimizing contact with others.