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Can Birth Control Help Migraines

The Connection Between Hormones And Migraine

I Quit Hormonal Birth Control! No more MIGRAINES!!!

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.

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.

How To Get Rid Of Hormonal Headaches

Although stopping headaches altogether is not possible, some methods can be implemented to reduce the intensity of symptoms. Lifestyle habits such as eating a nutritious diet, drinking plenty of water, getting adequate rest, and exercising may be recommended as natural remedies.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article intend to inform and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Pandia Health. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

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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.

READ MORE: Anti-vax movement declared a top-10 health threat of 2019: WHO

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

Hormonal Contraception For People With Migraine

Birth Control, Periods, and Migraines: What You Should ...

People with migraine with aura are not recommended to use combined hormonal contraceptives . Having migraines with aura is a risk factor for experiencing a stroke , plus taking combined hormonal contraceptives up to doubles that risk . The combination of these risk factors is associated with a 3x increased risk of stroke, compared to people with migraine who donât use combined hormonal contraceptives .

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people with chronic migraine are safe to use certain forms of contraception:

Most people who experience migraine without aura can use combined hormonal contraceptives, too, as the risk of increased stroke is outweighed by the benefits that the pill offers however, people with other risk factors for stroke, such as older age and cigarette smoking, may be advised not to use combined hormonal birth control .

People with non-migraine headaches do not have any restrictions on hormonal birth control .

Some birth control options may be safer than others, depending on your age and other risk factors . Speak to your healthcare provider to figure out what is the best contraceptive method for you.

to track your headaches and see how they appear in relation to your cycle.

Let’s support one another.

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How Oral Contraceptives Affect Migraine Symptoms

Dr. Jelena Pavlovic, Assistant Professor of Neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Headache Specialist and Attending Neurologist at Montefiore Headache Center, echoes that sentiment. In those who had preexisting migraine, and who are then started on exogenous hormones, particularly exogenous estrogen products, their headaches can often improve with steady levels of estrogen, but sometimes they can worsen or become more frequent, she says. In those in whom it worsens, that should be considered as a red flag.

Women with migraine with aura have a slightly greater risk of stroke than women without aura. In those women, right now, the leading consensus is that we should be very careful in giving them hormonal contraceptives, because the estrogen component may increase the risk of stroke even further, says Dr. Sheikh.

Many of the studies on oral contraceptives and migraine were conducted when the estrogen dose was high, and today, these doses are much lower, so the risk may be lower now than we think, but more research is needed in women who have aura and have been exposed to low-dose estrogen.

Help With Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome , a common condition among teen girls and young women, is a hormone imbalance in which the ovaries make extra amounts of testosterone. It can cause irregular periods, unwanted hair growth, and acne. Taking birth control pills can improve these symptoms by balancing your hormones, lowering the level of testosterone, and regulating your period.

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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.

When Should I Seek Immediate Help Or Contact My Healthcare Provider

Which Birth Control Methods to avoid If I have… Migraines? High Blood Pressure? Diabetes? Obesity?

Schedule a visit with your healthcare provider if:

  • The number or severity of your migraines increase, or your headache pattern changes.
  • Youre experiencing new or different side effects.
  • Your medications no longer seem to be working.
  • Your headache comes on suddenly.
  • You are experiencing the worst headache of my life.
  • You have a headache after experiencing a head injury.
  • You are having neurologic symptoms that you have never had before, including speaking difficulty, balance problems, vision problems, mental confusion, seizures, or numbing/tingling sensations.

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Why Are Women With Migraine Who Take The Pill Or Use The Vaginal Ring Or The Patch A Special Case

The combined oral contraceptive pill , the contraceptive vaginal ring and the contraceptive patch contain the chemical oestrogen. They are all called combined hormonal contraceptives. They are generally used for 21 consecutive days, followed by a 7-day break .

Taking oestrogen causes you to have a slightly increased risk of having a stroke . If you have migraine without aura, you have a slightly increased risk of having a stroke compared with the normal risk. The increased risk of having a stroke is slightly higher in people who have migraine with aura.

If you take oestrogen and you have migraine the risks increase a little more, because now two risks are present.

  • The combination of taking combined hormonal contraception plus having migraine without aura increases the risk of stroke slightly more than either alone.
  • The combination of taking combined hormonal contraception plus having migraine with aura increases the stroke risk by a little more than this, multiplying it by 2 to 4.

This is still a very low risk, but it is an increased risk of something very serious. Doctors therefore advise against using combined hormonal contraception if you experience migraine with aura, as this is puts you at a small but unnecessarily increased risk of something very serious.

Newer Birth Control Pills Carry Less Risk

Modern COCs have a lower dose of estrogen and carry less risk of stroke than older contraceptive formulations, according to the American College of Cardiology.

Today, most combination birth control pills contain between 10 and 35 micrograms of estrogen, according to the Mayo Clinic, while older formulations of birth control pills have as much as 50 mcg of estrogen.

We typically say that the lowest dose that does the best job for the patient is ideal, so I normally will recommend the lowest estrogen combination pill, says Levitt. There is a low-dose pill that contains 10 micrograms of estrogen, which is the lowest that it gets, and there’s no generic for that. The next one up is 20 micrograms.

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The Problem With Hormonal Imbalances

Migraines affect 12 percent of the U.S. population including children, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. They can run in families, and more women than men experience them largely due to hormonal changes.

Generally, migraines are launched by triggers, such as environmental factors, dietary components and hormonal changes. Shifts in hormones occur throughout a womans menstrual cycle. Usually around the time of ovulation, when eggs are released from the ovaries, women have a big surge in estrogen. Then right before the menstrual cycle begins, estrogen levels drop.

“Its usually that drop in estrogen that will trigger a menstrual migraine,” Rao explains.

In some cases, hormonal contraceptives can help manage migraines and even prevent them since they help regulate estrogen levels. This type of birth control comes in various forms:

  • Combined oral contraceptives
  • Intrauterine devices
  • Progesterone-only pills

Combined oral contraceptives have both estrogen and progesterone . But controlling estrogen levels can be tricky because of how birth control is formulated and which type of migraine you have.

“In the 1960s and ’70s when birth control was just coming out, they contained higher doses of estrogen,” Rao says.

“But now, we have lower-dose estrogen formulation along with non-estrogen options,” Rao adds.

The other factor complicating matters is that migraines differ, so the kind you have determines how you respond to birth control.

Is It True That Migraine Is Associated With Stroke Can I Still Use The Contraceptive Pill

Headaches and Birth Control Pills

In general, women with migraine with aura are believed to have a 2 to 4-fold increased risk of stroke compared to women with migraine without aura. Many things might explain why migraine and stroke are related. Estrogen also increases the risk of stroke in young women. For this reason, contraceptives with estrogen are better avoided in women with migraine with aura. Luckily, there are many other available options.

It is understandably scary to think about this risk, but you should consider that the overall risk for a woman of reproductive age to have a stroke is about 1/10 000 per year. If you triple that, it increases it to about 3/10 000 per year which is still very small.

However, this rate does go up with every additional risk factors like age, high blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes. In women over 50, it appears that migraine with aura is not a risk factor anymore as other factors become more important.

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What Causes Migraine In The Pill

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.

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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The Most Common Iud Side Effects And How To Treat Them According To Ob

  • Hormonal IUD side effects include irregular bleeding for a few months after insertion, lighter or no periods, and hormonal changes like an increase in acne, mood swings, or headaches.
  • The copper IUD causes side effects like intense period cramping and a heavier blood flow during menstruation.
  • IUD side effects will often diminish over time and can be treated with common pain-relieving methods, but you should always check in with a doctor if your side effects are painful or concerning.

An intrauterine device, better known as an IUD, is a form of birth control that is inserted into a uterus. There are two forms of this contraception: hormonal and copper . Both have side effects, although they can differ.

Heres what you need to know about IUD side effects and how to reduce them.

What Is The Relationship Between Migraine Aura And Birth Control Is Birth Control Risky For Women Who Experience Aura

MIRENA CRASH !!! My IUD Birth Control Nightmare Depression / Emotional / Migraines

About 20% of people with migraines experience aura, which is typically a warning that the headache itself is about to come on â although sometimes an aura occurs without the headache pain itself.

An aura can include unusual sensory changes such as seeing flashes of light, lines, zigzags or other visual changes, which is called a visual aura, unusual smells or sensations, and sometimes even numbness or weakness in their face, an inability to speak or understand words, and other unusual sensory symptoms.

Women who experience âmigraine with aura,â? or any changes in vision before or with their headache, should not use any form of birth control containing estrogen, as the estrogen may increase the risk of stroke for these women.

But there are many safe birth control options for women who experience aura, including progestin-only pills , birth control shots, an intrauterine device , a contraceptive implant, or barrier methods like condoms, spermicides, a diaphragm, or a cervical cap.

But many women who suffer migraines without auras can safely use all birth control methods, including combination hormonal methods like birth control pills, the patch, and the ring.

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The Role Of Hormones In Migraine

Studies show two-thirds of female patients develop migraines around the time of monthly menstruation. This happens so often it has even been labelled a menstrual migraine. Scientists differentiate between pure menstrual migraines that happen over the same time frame as the menstruation, and menstrually-related headaches that occur before the onset of the period. Although most patients also get attacks at other times of the month, theres enough evidence to show that female hormonal activity affects migraine sufferers significantly.

Natural Treatments And Lifestyle Adjustments For Menstrual Migraines

Lifestyle treatments are always tricky to study, since they are hard to control and not as well-funded as pharmaceutical medicine.

Magnesium: Theres some evidence that magnesium can relieve migraine pain . In a small preliminary trial, participants took magnesium supplements three times per day starting from Day 15 of their cycle until the start of their next period . This treatment helped decrease the participants total pain and also improved their PMS symptoms . In a randomized control trial where participants received either a placebo or a drug containing magnesium, vitamin B2, and coenzyme Q10, the severity of migraines was lower among those taking the drug, though the number of days in which migraines were experienced was not statistically different from the placebo .

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But Hormonal Birth Control Has Contributed To Womens Sexual Liberation

This is indeed true. Certainly, women wanted hormonal birth control because any kind of control over fertility was preferable to the slavery of having endless children. But this freedom also belies the realities that women experience every day on hormonal birth control.

If the health effects and negative effects on mood and libido are great, it begs the question what is liberating about hormonal birth-control. Perhaps more appropriately we should recognize that these methods liberate women from the fear of pregnancy, and in that they are clearly effective. But freedom from fear of pregnancy and pregnancy itself is not the same thing as sexual liberty. This is a hard trade-off, for sure. The problem is that many women arent fully informed of the trade-offs they are risking when they start hormonal birth control.

I like what Lisa Hendrickson-Jack has to say about it:

Althought the pill has been associated with womens liberation, numerous issues associated with HCs need to be put out in the open. After all, the heart of the womens liberation movement is freedom. For me, freedom is the right to exist in the world exactly as I am as a woman. I recognize that theres more to being a woman than simply having a uterus and being able to menstruate, but as a biological woman with a menstrual cycle, I dont want to be part of a feminist movement that doesnt allow me to cycle naturally.

And none too soon. As Holly Grigg-Spall points out in her book ,

Is Your Birth Control Causing Headaches

Migraines and Birth Control: Description, Causes, and ...

Headaches are sometimes a side effect of hormonal birth control . In one study, taking oral contraceptives affected migraines, with 24% of people experiencing increased frequency of migraines .

Estrogen-withdrawal headaches are a type of headache that people get during their âpill-freeâ or âsugar-pill weekâ when they are taking oral contraceptives. This type of headache usually goes away within 3 days, but then will return during the estrogen-free week of the next cycle .

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