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Can Birth Control Cause Migraines

What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider About Menstrual Migraines

Can Birth Control cause infertility? – Pandia Health
  • Am I experiencing a menstrual migraine or another type of migraine?
  • Should I change any of the medications Im taking?
  • What treatment do you recommend?
  • What medications should I take?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

A migraine is more than a bad headache. Not only can menstrual migraines get severe, but women have reported that they can be even worse than a migraine that occurs when theyre not on their period. Talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms. There are preventative measures and treatment options. A menstrual migraine might not be something you just have to live with every month.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/03/2021.


What Are Hormones What Is Estrogen

Hormones are often called your bodys chemical messengers. Theyre in your organs, tissues and bloodstream and theyre made by the endocrine glands. Examples of endocrine glands include your thyroid gland, adrenal glands and pituitary gland. If you have too little of a certain hormone, or too much, that can throw your entire system off balance.

Estrogen and progesterone are the two main sex hormones in women. Estrogen causes female physical features, sets off puberty and aids with reproduction. It also affects your cholesterol, controls your menstrual cycle, protects bone health and affects your heart, skin, bones, brain and other tissues. Its mostly produced by your ovaries.

Your levels of estrogen change. Theyre at the highest amount in the middle of your cycle and the lowest amount when youre on your period. When youre in menopause, they drop very low.

How Hormones Affect Migraines

Menstrual migraines are more common with high, fluctuating estrogen and relatively low progesterone, such as during perimenopause. Thats why menstrual migraines are more common between the ages of 40 and 55.

High, fluctuating estrogen promotes migraines by 1) stimulating immune cells to produce more prostaglandins and histamine, and 2) leading to steep estrogen withdrawal, which disrupts the neurotransmitters serotonin and glutamate.

By reducing glutamate and calming the brain, progesterone may help to prevent menstrual migraines.

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Terrifying Side Effects Of Birth Control

There comes a time in every girls life when she is faced with the question: to take or not to take the BCP? Its not a decision to make lightly. Of course, it all depends on the individual girl and w

There comes a time in every girls life when she is faced with the question: to take or not to take the BCP? Its not a decision to make lightly. Of course, it all depends on the individual girl and what her situation is like. Unwanted pregnancy is just about the most difficult situation to handle, so it’s important that girls are given all the information about the good and bad effects of popping that small, daily pill. In the past, doctors were not known to always disclose the awful side effects, partly because they didn’t know or weren’t convinced that the pill was the cause. But today, partly through the sharing of stories by brave women around the world, we know that the birth control is not always safe for everybody and it can cause debilitating reactions in certain people. Just like some people have nut allergies, some women’s bodies are just not accepting of synthetic forms of hormones. If you are on the pill and have any of these side effects, visit your doctor immediately to discuss your options.

Risk Of Stroke In Women With Migraines

Birth control, headaches, and migraine: What

Migraine is an independent risk factor for ischemic stroke. However, the absolute risk of ischemic stroke is low in women of reproductive age, with reported incidence rates ranging from 5 to 11.3 per 100,000 woman-years., Often, a history of migraine may be the only significant risk factor for stroke in women younger than age 35 years, whereas more traditional atherogenic risk factors for ischemic stroke dominate after age 35, with history of migraine losing relevance in this older cohort. Although 2 case-control studies suggest the association between migraine and stroke may be limited to women younger than age 45 years,, a large prospective cohort study of women age 45 years found that active migraine with aura was associated with a significantly increased risk of major cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction, ischemic stroke, and death due to ischemic cardiovascular disease.

Migraine without aura and stroke risk. Migraine with aura and stroke risk. Reproduced with permission from MacGregor EA.

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Whats The Link Between The Birth Control Pill And Migraines

Sometimes, birth control pills help migraines. Sometimes, they make headaches worse. How birth control affects migraines depends on the woman and on the level of hormones present in the pill she takes.

A drop in estrogen levels can trigger migraines. Thats why some women get headaches just before their period, which is when estrogen levels dip. If you have these menstrual migraines, birth control pills might help prevent your headaches by keeping your estrogen levels stable throughout the menstrual cycle.

Other women start getting migraines or find that their migraines get worse when they take combination birth control pills. Their headaches may lessen after theyve been on the pill for a few months.

The risk for blood clotting is low unless you:

  • are overweight
  • smoke cigarettes
  • are on bed rest for extended periods

If any of these apply to you, speak with your doctor about your options for birth control. They may be able to recommend a suitable option with less risk.

Epidemiology Of Migraine And Combined Hormonal Contraceptive Use

Very recently, Mac Gregor reviewed the effects of currently available contraceptive methods in the context of the risks and benefits for women with migraine and non-migraine headaches and concluded that for the majority of women with headache and migraine, the choice of contraception is unrestricted. Indeed, the contraceptive method is unlikely to have an impact on headache, whereas migraine deserves accurate diagnosis and recognition of the impact of different methods on such condition.

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Migraines On Birth Control

When it comes to birth control, migraines have much in common with normal headaches: they can be agitated by fluctuations in estrogen levels and often return to previous frequencies after a few months of usage.

With that being said, migraines with aura are different beasts entirely. An aura is a warning symptom or set of symptoms that occur prior to the migraine, such as:

  • the perception of a bright light
  • zig zag lines in your vision
  • partial or total loss of vision
  • blurry or obscured vision
  • numbness or tingling in part of your body
  • partial or full paralysis
  • perception of an unpleasant smell
  • dizziness or vertigo
  • upset stomach or nausea
  • confusing thoughts, experiences, or visual phenomena

Women who experience migraines with aura should not be taking hormonal birth control containing both estrogen and progestin, as the estrogen can heighten the risk of stroke. If you experience any of the above symptoms while taking combination birth control, stop taking it and talk to your healthcare provider about switching to one of the progestin-only methods listed above.

What Are The Treatment Options For Menopausal Migraines


If you need to continue estrogen supplements after menopause, you should start on the lowest dose of these agents, on an uninterrupted basis. Instead of seven days off the drug, you may be told to take it every day. By maintaining a steady dose of estrogen, the headaches may be prevented. An estrogen patch may be effective in stabilizing the levels of estrogen.

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Types Of Menstrual Migraines

There are two sub-types of menstrual migraines: pure menstrual migraines and menstrual-related migraines, with the latter being more common than the former.

Symptoms of a pure menstrual migraine include:

  • A migraine headache without aura that occurs exclusively during the one or two days before or after the onset of your period and occurs in more than 60% of your cycles

Symptoms of menstrual-related migraines include:

  • A migraine without aura that occurs one to two days before or after the onset of your period and occurs in more than 60% of your cycles
  • Migraines with or without aura that also occur at other times in your cycle

How To Avoid Migraines While On Birth Control

Combination birth control pill packs contain 21 active pills with hormones and seven inactive, or placebo, pills. The sudden drop in estrogen during your inactive pill days may trigger migraines. One solution is to switch to a pill thats lower in estrogen, so you dont experience that sharp hormone drop. Another option is to take a pill that contains a low dose of estrogen on your placebo pill days.

Migraine Herbal Home Remedies from Around the World

Switching to a continuous dose birth control pill such as Seasonale or Seasonique can also help. Youll take active pills for three 28-day cycles, followed by a four- to seven-day break. Another continuous option is Lybrel, which has only active pills and no break. The steady dose of estrogen these pills provide should make you less likely to have migraines.

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How Is A Migraine Different From A Headache

A migraine is usually characterized by severe, throbbing pain on one side of the head, although in some cases, both sides of the head will be affected. Most migraines last between four and 72 hours, and are accompanied by one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Pulsing or throbbing head pain
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, smell, and touch
  • Tingling or numbness in the face or extremities

The above symptoms typically occur during the attack phase of the migraine . Some individuals may also experience symptoms one or two days prior to the headache. This prodrome stage typically entails one or more of the following:

  • Food cravings
  • Depression, anxiety, or irritability
  • Neck stiffness

The length and severity of symptoms may differ between individuals. However, it is possible to distinguish a migraine from a headache based on ones ability or lack thereof to continue their day-to-day tasks while coping with the illness.

Birth Control Options Without Estrogen

7 Symptoms Hormonal Birth Control Can Cause You Might Not ...

Some birth control pills and other hormonal contraceptives contain only progestin. Again, because women can respond to hormone fluctuations differently, these options could improve or worsen migraine.

In cases where taking progestin-only pills causes amenorrhea , headache and migraine often improve, according to a paper published in Reviews in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

PPPs may not always suppress ovulation, however, and so estrogen fluctuation may occur, which has the potential to trigger migraine, according to the same paper.

Everyone is a little different, says Levitt. Some people will experience a little headache with hormones in general.

There are also non-oral birth control options such as IUDs, the birth control implant, or the monthly shot, all of which contain only progestin, no estrogen.

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Migraines And Birth Control

Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team. Updated on January 21, 2021

Migraines are extremely uncomfortable and can even be debilitating. In fact, a migraine is the third most prevalent illness in the world, as 12% of the population will experience one at some point. While there is currently no cure for migraines, there are steps individuals can take to reduce the intensity of symptoms. While there are numerous methods that exist, the following article will focus on the relationship between birth control and migraines.

What Can I Do To Help Myself

For the majority of women with migraine who are using hormonal contraception, management does not differ from standard treatment recommendations. This means treating attacks with pain-killers and keeping diary cards to establish the pattern of attacks and to identify non-hormonal triggers. Often effective acute treatment is usually all that is necessary, particularly if attacks only occur once or twice a month.

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The Connection Between Hormones And Migraine

Its fairly clear that these sex hormones and the chemical and physical processes our bodies use to create and absorb them all have a widespread effect on reproductive-age women. And since oral birth control methods contain the same hormonal ingredients, it makes sense that using them will have a similar impact. Some patients have a higher sensitivity to hormonal fluctuations than others, too. Research shows migraine can be triggered by decreased estrogen levels, both before the start of the period, and in the last phases of the menstrual cycle.

What Causes Migraines In Females

What birth control can do to your body (side effects of the pill and more)

Women who have a history of migraines tend to report that the attacks typically start either right before or during their periods. This may be due to the fact that menstruation causes a drop in estrogen, or the female hormone. Some women report increased migraine attacks during pregnancy or menopause these factors also lead to changes in estrogen levels.

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How Birth Control Pills Affect Your Body

Birth control pills, also known as oral contraceptives, prevent pregnancy by changing the way your body releases hormones. Hormones are powerful chemicals that your body uses to function. Organs called endocrine glands create them. These include your pituitary gland, thyroid, and pancreas.

Birth control pills prevent pregnancy from happening by preventing the release of estrogen, which prevents an egg from being released. They thicken the cervical mucus, which makes it harder for sperm to reach an egg that may have been released. Birth control pills also thin the lining of your uterus, which prevents a fertilized egg from attaching to it.

The two main kinds of birth control pills are the combination pill and the progestin-only pill.

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What Are Women Using Instead

After experiencing side effects they believe were caused by the drug, many women interviewed for this story said they now rely on period-tracking apps and condoms for birth control. Others use the pullout method which doctors warn isnt reliable.

Despite the shift away from the birth control pill, Kives said oral contraceptives are still a favoured method for many women and probably the most popular option.

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I still think youre going to see the birth control pill used by the vast majority of patients, depending on what theyre looking for, she said. Theres many non- contraceptive benefits of the pill that people still like, like the control of their cycle and acne.

The pendulum always changes. Youre going to get women now who are looking for less hormonal interventions because theres always this fear around hormones not that its very well substantiated.

With a file from Katie Dangerfield

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Different Types Of Hormonal Birth Control

There are several available methods of hormonal birth control to choose from, according to Planned Parenthood. They include the following options:

Which of these you choose, if any, may depend on your lifestyle, health history, age, whether and when you desire to have children, and possibly your insurance coverage.

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What Causes Migraine In The Pill

Birth control shot vs. the pill: Which is better?

Migraine occurring exclusively in the hormone free week is probably triggered by falling levels of oestrogen. These tend to be migraine without aura and usually commence a couple of days after the hormones are stopped. If acute treatment is inadequate to control symptoms, hormonal tretments may help.

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What’s The Deal With Migraines And Birth Control

Turns out, a migraine with temporary visual or neurological symptoms is called a migraine with aura, says Sophia Yen, M.D., M.P.H, co-founder and CEO of Pandia Health, an online birth control resource. These symptoms can include visual disturbances or other neurological disturbances . These warning signs usually happen immediately before the migraine and signal that your head is about to hurt a lot.

While tons of people get migraines , only about 25 to 30 percent of people who get migraines also have aura symptoms, according to the AMFand that is the big red flag when it comes to migraines and birth control.

“Estrogen increases the risk of blood clots, and when you have the aura, you’re actually having a mini temporary stroke, aka a blood clot,” says Dr. Yen. “That’s why, if you have migraine with aura, it’s not safe for you to be on medication with estrogen.”

So, if you get migraines with aura on birth control, you should stop taking it immediately, tell your doctor, and abstain or use condoms, she says. “You risk getting a stroke or even death” if you don’t discontinue the use.

Research confirms that women taking hormonal contraceptives who get migraines with aura, specifically, have an increased stroke risk, according to a 2017 review published in the journal Headache. %20but%20you%20might%20need%20some%20adjustment%20of%20your%20medication” rel=”nofollow”> woman’s experience proves that, yes, birth control can cause extremely dangerous blood clots.)

Why Are Women Moving Away From The Pill

Alisha Sawhney, 25, believes the birth control pill caused changes in her weight. She first went on the oral contraceptive in 2015, which helped regulate her periods.

For three years, I was on the pill but then I stopped because I was gaining so much weight, she said. I didnt really have any other symptoms with the pill but now Im back to not knowing when my period is coming.

Sawhney said her diet hadnt changed over the time she was on the pill, and her lifestyle didnt, either.

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Cardoso said she didnt feel great about taking something every day that could possibly contribute to serious health concerns, like blood clots and hormonal effects.

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Since going off the pill, Cardoso said her mood has improved. She now tracks her cycle with the Flo app.

Like Cardoso, Bryson said she feels much better now that shes off the oral contraceptive.

Going off of the pill was such a good decision, Bryson said.

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I realized afterwards that my mom went off of it for the same reason I did when she was around 30. Switching brands was never really an option for me because, at the end of the day, I think it was the hormones giving me the side effects.

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