Between my daily web browsing and social media activities, I read a lot of headlines. I rarely click through, however, unless the content appears to address my passions: my children and parenting, yoga (especially prenatal), birth and pregnancy, health and fitness, and digital technologies, to name a few.
So when I came across this article at HealthImpactNews.com last week — “Study: HPV Vaccine Linked to Premature Menopause in Young Girls” — it had my attention. As the mom of two young girls, anything related to their development is sure to draw me in, whether it’s relevant to where they are now, or where they’ll be in 15 years. So I sent it on for further research by our staff writer … and did a little more digging myself.
The article, originally published back in August, referenced a study from the American Journal of Reproductive Immunology that documented three cases of young women who stopped having their periods and began showing signs of premenopause after receiving the HPV vaccine. In two of the three cases, researchers detected two auto-antibodies (antiovarian and anti-thyroid), which suggests the vaccine may have triggered an autoimmune response — one the researchers describe as a potentially “life-disabling autoimmune condition.”
According to the study, the women were developing normally prior to receiving the inoculation, and pelvic ultrasounds performed during the research showed no abnormalities. Yet, even after hormone replacement therapy, the secondary amenorrhea (the loss of the normal menstrual cycle for six months or more) did not resolve.
“According to these clinical features,” the researchers write, “a diagnosis of Primary Ovarian Failure (POF) was determined …”
Now I understand that a three-person study is not very substantial — more research is definitely needed. And I know first-hand that vaccinations are a controversial topic among parents and in the medical community. (For the record and to just put it all out there, we have decided to have our children vaccinated on a delayed schedule).
But this study prompted me to do some more in-depth reading about the HPV vaccine. Here are a few things I wasn’t previously aware of and personally found most concerning/interesting:
- The vaccine was developed to protect women against four strains of the human papillomavirus, which are estimated to be cause around 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. It was approved by the FDA in 2006 for girls ages 9–26; in 2009, it was approved for boys and young men in the same age range.
- Prior to its release for girls and young women, there were no studies done to evaluate the effects of the vaccine on the ovaries or fertility.
- In July 2013, Japan’s government withdrew its support for the vaccine after receiving thousands of complaints about side effects ranging from “long-term pain and numbness to infertility and paralysis.”
When the vaccine came out, I was 23 years old, and I had the freedom to decide whether I wanted to receive it. I discussed it with my doctor and subsequently opted out. Had I received it then, would I be where I am today, with two beautiful daughters? Probably.
But the second bullet alone is enough for me to want more answers, more information, more studies — for my daughters’ sake. If there’s any chance that it could lead to issues preventing my girls from experiencing the transformational joys (and challenges, let’s be honest) of pregnancy and parenting, I want to know that it’s been tested, researched and approved as truly safe — that these three cases were indeed rare exceptions.
By the time, my husband and I have to make this decision, we should know more. Until then, I will continue to be proactive and as well-informed as I can about topics that affect my daughters’ health and well-being — now and for years down the road.