Symptoms And Side Effects
Fluctuations in hormone levels caused by the menstrual cycle can trigger headaches for some women. For some of these women, birth control pills can actually help reduce how painful these headaches are and how often they occur. This is because the pills can even out their estrogen levels.
Other women may find that the drop in estrogen that accompanies menstrual bleeding can cause or worsen their headaches.
Birth control pills arent strictly to blame for this. Whether youre taking birth control pills or not, the reduction in estrogen that accompanies menstrual bleeding may put your body into a kind of hormonal withdrawal.
Both combination birth control pills and progestin-only pills may cause headaches as a side effect. Additional side effects of birth control pills may include:
- breast tenderness
- irregular menstrual bleeding or spotting between periods
- weight gain or loss
- liver tumors
- blood clots
The risk of stroke may be increased further if you experience migraine headaches with aura while taking the combination birth control pill.
Birth control pill use may increase the risk of cervical cancer. More research is needed to clarify the role of birth control pills in developing cervical cancer. The birth control pill may also decrease the risk of other female reproductive cancers, such as ovarian and endometrial cancers. Breast cancer risk due to birth control use is unclear.
Best Birth Control Pill For Migraines
Birth control may help relieve symptoms of migraines without aura. In particular, the combination pill, progestin-only pill, patch, or ring may be recommended. These methods help to regulate hormones and reduce unpleasant period symptoms, one of which may be migraines.
Taking the pill continuously may also reduce the likelihood of migraines, as it prevents the drop in hormones that occurs when a woman stops taking the pill . Some pill packs do not contain placebo pills, but even if they do, it is possible to skip these pills and start a new pack. When the placebo pills are skipped, hormones will continue to be released into the body.
What If I Have Migraines Only In The Pill
In some women with migraine who take the pill or use the patch, migraine attacks can be triggered by the drop in the blood level of oestrogen during the pill-free or patch-free interval.
- So long as these migraine attacks are without aura AND you were already known to have migraine without aura before starting the pill or the patch, there is usually no need to stop the pill or the patch.
- If they are migraines with aura, you should stop the pill or the patch, and if you have never had migraines of any sort before, you should stop the pill or patch.
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Vision Problems Caused By Dry Eye
Hormone changes from taking the pill can cause dry-eye symptoms that affect vision, says Beth Kneib, OD, the director of the clinical resources group at the American Optometric Association. See your eye doctor right away if you have dry eyes accompanied by discharge or a change in vision, which can be more serious, she says. “Some eye infections mimic dry-eye symptoms and can lead to a larger problem, she explains. If you have no other symptoms, try over-the-counter saline eye drops for relief. While the risk is small, chronic pill use may also be associated with an increased risk of open angle glaucoma, according to research presented at the American Academy of Ophthalmology in 2013.
Can Birth Control Impact Migraines
Since around 1966, research has suggested that low-dose estrogen birth control pills can prevent migraines, while higher dose pills can sometimes make them worse. Every woman is different and will respond differently to hormonal contraceptives. Furthermore, it is important to consult a doctor about any history of migraines before trying a new hormonal contraceptive. Some migraine sufferers experience visual disturbances during an attack. This is referred to as a migraine aura. For women with a history of this type of migraine, birth control may not be recommended, as it could lead to stroke.
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Can Birth Control Cause Migraines
Around 15 percent of the U.S. population currently experiences migraine headaches, which affect both genders and all age groups. In children, similar numbers of boys and girls suffer from the disorder, while after 65 years of age the headaches diminish equally in both genders. During the reproductive years, however, women make up more than twice the number of patients than men, and hormones are believed to be a major reason for this.
Hormonal Birth Control Could Carry Risk For Some Women With Migraine
For women with migraine with aura, however in which the headache phase of a migraine attack is preceded by visual, sensory, or other nervous system symptoms combination birth control pills may not be appropriate. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends complete avoidance of combination hormonal contraception for women with migraine with aura, regardless of age, because of studies showing an increased risk of ischemic stroke among women who have migraine with aura. There is no restriction for migraine without aura.
But not all experts agree that birth control pills are off-limits to women who have migraine with aura. Recommendations released by the International Headache Society in 2000, for example, contain no specific guidelines not to use oral contraceptive pills in women who have migraine with aura, according to a 2018 review in the journal Stroke.
According to Levitt, the mechanism of migraine is vasoconstriction in the arteries, mostly and in and around the brain. If you have a tendency to form blood clots, you might have a higher incidence of stroke, she says.
Nonetheless, we want to have a conversation about the risk, even though its very small, says Levitt.
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What Can I Do If I Think Birth Control Is Giving Me Headaches
Headaches are not usually a sign of a serious medical problem. However, it is important to see a doctor about any new symptoms.
A medical professional can diagnose the cause of the headaches and help a person to decide whether a certain type of birth control may reduce their frequency or severity.
When identifying the cause of headaches, it can help to keep a headache journal. The headaches may be unrelated to hormonal birth control, or they may result from sudden drops in estrogen, rather than being a side effect of a pill.
Keeping a record of headaches throughout a full menstrual cycle can give the doctor a complete picture of symptoms.
Very rarely, a headache can signal a life-threatening problem, such as a stroke. Seek emergency medical care for a headache that:
- is extremely severe and different from previous headaches
- occurs with confusion or loss of consciousness
- is accompanied by facial paralysis or a crooked smile
- occurs with weakness or trouble lifting both arms
For people who have migraines and an increased risk of stroke, additional symptoms may require emergency care. Ask a doctor about these.
Hormones are the bodyâs chemical messengers. When hormone levels change, the messages may be altered, or they may be received differently. This can cause various side effects.
Only certain people experience these side effects, and some find that they get better with time or dietary changes.
The most common side effects of hormonal birth control are:
You Could Get Pregnant Right Away
No, your body doesn’t need time to clear birth control from your system. For most women, normal ovulation resumes within a month or two, and one study found that 20% of women were able to get pregnant one cycle after stopping birth control. If you’re not trying to get pregnant, make sure to use condoms or another type of contraception immediately after you stop taking your pills.
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What Do I Do If My Migraines Change Or If I Start To Get Auras After Starting Oral Contraception
You should stop your oral contraception pill and contact your doctor for further advice.
In general, headache specialists recommend that if you are taking contraception and develop prolonged auras or new type of aura, or if you suddenly develop migraine with aura, you should stop taking the pill and see your family doctor urgently for further advice.
Is It True That Migraine Is Associated With Stroke Can I Still Use The Contraceptive Pill
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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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.
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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How Do They Affect Migraine
Headache is a common symptom during the early months of using hormonal contraception but usually resolves with time. If attacks occur, they tend to come during the hormone-free week. Some women, usually those with aura, note a worsening in frequency or severity of attacks. A few women develop aura for the first time.
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.
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What Can My Doctor Do To Help Me
If pain-killers are not effective, your doctor can prescribe a number of different treatments including anti-sickness drugs that help the painkillers to work more effectively, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers and triptans.
If acute treatment is inadequate to control symptoms, hormonal prophylaxis may be considered. Although there are no data from clinical trials to support the following suggestions, they are widely used in practice.
Changing the way you take your pill. There are two options which can be used separately or in combination. The tri-cycle regimen where three consecutive hormone cycles are taken followed by a hormone-free interval. This means that you would have only five such migraines a year instead of thirteen. In some countries CHC pills are licensed for a 91-day cycle of 84 days of pill-taking followed by a 7-day break, resulting in only 4 pill-free intervals a year. The 4-day break where instead of taking 21 days of the pill followed by a 7-day withdrawal period, you break the cycle for 4 days. This has been shown in trials to reduce the fall in oestrogen levels and can lessen the likelihood of a menstrual migraine from occuring.
What Is A Migraine With Aura
Not all migraines are the same, and they largely fall into two main categories:
- Migraine without aura
- Migraine with aura
Menstrual migraines are a subtype that can fall into either category.
According to the American Migraine Foundation, about one-quarter of those who have migraines also experience aura. Aura is a series of visual and sensory changes that may include any and all of the following:
- Inability to speak clearly
- Seeing black dots, zig zags or other unusual visual patterns
- Tingling and numbness on one side of the body
These changes may happen right before or during a migraine attack and may last anywhere from 10 minutes to a half-hour. No matter how long it lasts, aura is an unmistakable warning notice that a migraine is imminent.
The American Migraine Foundation reports that women younger than age 45 who have migraine with aura are already at higher risk for ischemic stroke. These women may be more likely to form blood clots due to inflammation, abnormalities in coagulation and dysfunction of the blood vessels.
For women who suffer from migraines with aura, taking combined oral contraceptives heightens their stroke risk even more. Its specifically the hormone estrogen in the oral contraceptive that can cause a stroke. “Estrogen has properties that can cause your blood to clot easier,” Rao says.
Blood clots have the potential to form in an artery that supplies blood to the brain. When the clot prevents or blocks blood flow to the brain, it can cause a stroke.
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How Birth Control Pills May Help
Menstrual migraines tend to be more severe and less responsive to the types of medications that are typically used to prevent or treat acute attacks that occur at other times of the month.
For some women, taking acontinuous combination birth control pillwhich consists of both estrogen and progestincan reduce the frequency of attacks. These pills inhibit ovulation and maintain estrogen levels by eliminating the hormone-free week associated with the cyclic use of the birth control pill.
With the continuous pill, you take the pills continuously to keep your estrogen levels constant. This means skipping the placebo pills if you have a 28-day pill pack, or taking a pill every day if you have a 21-day pill pack.
Another option is a progestin-only pill, also called the MiniPill. These pills prevent pregnancy by thickening the cervical mucus, making it much harder for sperm to swim through.
Progestin-only pills are prescribed for women who should not take pills containing estrogen, such as women who smoke, have high blood pressure, a history of blood clots, or migraine with aura during other times of the month. For women in this category, estrogen can increase the risk of stroke.
Birth control pills can also be used in combination with triptans and other medications typically prescribed for migraine. Avoiding migraine triggers, such as stress, lack of sleep, or irregular eating, is another useful prevention strategy.
Your Period Might Be Heavier And Less Regular
One of the biggest benefits of the pill is that it regulates your menstrual cycle. “Birth control pills typically lighten periods and decrease pain associated with periods,” says Dr. Bhardwaj. When you first stop taking oral contraceptives, it’s not unusual for your period to be a little unpredictable in terms of how heavy or light it is, how long it lasts, or how crampy you get.
“Some women who have been on the pill for many years assume their cycles are very regular,” says Dr. Klein. “But when they stop the pill, they learn their cycles are not as regular as they thought.” After two or three months, your period should return to normal, he adds.
Another surprise guest that could reappear when you quit the pill? PMS. “This is a big reason why many women go on birth control in the first place,” says Dr. Dweck. If you originally started taking the pill to ease PMS, don’t be surprised if symptoms like moodiness and irritability become more noticeable now that you’re off it.
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