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Does Birth Control Cause Migraines

Migraines On Birth Control

Do birth control pill cause severe side effects in women?

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.

If You Experience Migraines With Aura Consider Low

About a quarter of all migraines are accompanied by aura, a kind of visual or sensory disturbance. For most people, aura looks like blind spots, flashing lights, or zigzag patterns, but it can also cause temporary blindness, hallucinations, paresthesia , and aphasia . If you experience migraines with aura, your doctor will likely recommend a birth control method that is low in estrogen, such as the patch, ring, or progestin-only minipill. There are several low-dose estrogen formulations of the combination pill that might work for you as well. Birth control can help or hurt your migraines, depending on whether or not you experience aura, and what kind of birth control you use. Its important to talk to your doctor about your migraines so you can experiment safely and find the best contraceptive method for you.

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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.

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Taking The Headache Out Of Birth Control

Ashley with Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest shares her experience with birth control as a migraine sufferer.

Birth control has always been a challenge for me thanks to the fact that I have suffered from migraines with an aura since I was nine-years-old. Because I have an elevated risk of stroke due to my migraines, it means I am limited in the birth control options I can choose from. In case youre one of the 37 percent of reproductive-age women in the U.S. who are in the same boat, heres my experience with birth control so far.

Lets start off with what the birth control options, which involve low-to no-hormones to reduce the risk of a stroke, look like when you have migraines with an aura. They range from barrier methods and sterilization to the Depo-Provera shotIUDimplant and mini pill. These options are vastly different and suit nearly any lifestyle, so while migraine sufferers are limited to certain types of birth control, there is still a nice range of options to choose from.

Lets get a few things out of the way. Sterilization is not an option for me because I want to have children. Condoms are always a must to protect myself against STDs no matter what other method Im using. And I am not up for using the cervical cap, sponge or internal condom. In my opinion, those methods are just too high maintenance for me. Plus, I am looking for a method that is easy to use, doesnt require much maintenance and is highly effective.


Your Period Might Be Heavier And Less Regular

Birth control, headaches, and migraine: What

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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Your Weight Will Probably Stay The Same

Don’t ditch birth control solely to drop a few pounds. Though many women believe they’ve gained weight on the pill, scientific research hasn’t actually found a link between oral contraceptive use and weight gain. In a 2014 review of 49 relevant trials, birth control did not appear to have a major impact on weight. “There has been no definitive evidence showing that startingor stoppingbirth control pills will affect your weight,” says Neha Bhardwaj, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

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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Breast Tenderness Discomfort And Pain

Pain, discomfort and tenderness of the breasts is one of the most common side effects of the birth control patch. 

According to data from the FDA for Ortho Evra , 22.4 percent of women who used the patch reported pain in the breasts.

This occurs due to the estrogen and progestin hormones in the patch, which can cause your breast ducts and milk glands to swell. 

Breast pain from the patch is usually a temporary side effect, with your body adjusting to the medication over several months. In the meantime, its okay to use over the counter pain relief drugs like Tylenol or Advil to manage any breast-related pain. 

Dizziness And Birth Control

Do birth control pills give you migraines? (Conditions A-Z)

Hormonal birth control may cause dizziness. However, its a fairly rare side effect. A dizzy or woozy feeling is most likely to occur when someone starts taking a new type of birth control, and it usually goes away within a matter of weeks. If the feeling persists after three months, talk to your doctor about trying a different birth control brand or method.

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Learn More About Birth Control

Overall, birth control is a safe, effective way to prevent pregnancy. Most birth controls are 99% effective when used correctly, with side effectsaside from common issues such as spotting and nauseafairly uncommon.

Our guides to Yaz, Estrostep and Ortho Tri-Cyclen explain how three of the most widely used combined birth control pills work. You can also learn about progestin-only pills in our guide to the differences between combined birth control and mini pills.

Interested in using birth control to treat hormonal acne? Our guide to birth control pills and acne explains how combined birth control pills like Yaz, Estrostep and Ortho Tri-Cyclen can help you prevent acne outbreaks and improve your skin.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

What Causes Migraines In Females

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. 

Read Also: How To Prevent Heat Induced Migraines

When Should I Seek Immediate Help Or Contact My Healthcare Provider

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.

How Do You Transition Off Of Birth Control

Birth control, headaches, and migraine: What

You can stop taking the pill safely at any point in your cycle, though it can be helpful to finish a pack so you can predict your next ovulation or period if youre looking to plan or prevent pregnancy. As for an IUD, it can also be removed at any point by your healthcare provider, though removing it during your period when the cervix is naturally softer could be a bit easier.

Your body is really resilient once you stop taking the pill or remove the patch or an IUD, youll likely get back to normal fast. Cue the sighs of relief. As we mentioned earlier, the majority of former birth control users will resume their pre-BC cycles within three months and conceive within 12 months of trying to get pregnant.

As for the conception rates after use of each of the most common hormonal birth control methods, here’s a breakdown per one 2018 study:

  • Ex-oral contraceptive users: 87.04% pregnant within 12 months
  • Ex-hormonal IUD users: 84.75% pregnant within 12 months
  • Ex-injection users: 77.4% pregnant within 12 months
  • Ex-implant users: 74.7% pregnant within 12 months

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Could Your Hormones Be Causing Those Migraines

    Migraines are headaches that bring not only severe pain but other highly unpleasant symptoms. 

    Did you know that these headaches are especially common in women? In fact, migraines are three times more likely to strike women than men, and girls are more likely to experience migraines at the time of their first menstrual period, and endure them more frequently after puberty.

    That makes it no surprise that some women get relief from migraines when theyre able to manage their hormones. 

    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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    Preventative Menstrual Migraine Treatments

    Triptans: This medication can also be taken to prevent future migraines from happening. In one study, using triptans for a few days before the start of the period helped reduce both severity and frequency of menstrual migraine headaches .

    Hormone stabilization techniques: Preventative treatment using hormone therapy may help to decrease the frequency of severe menstrual migraines. In one study, researchers looked at how two treatments with hormonal contraception affected migraines. The majority of participants were prescribed combined oral contraceptives and additionally took estrogen during the week of their withdrawal bleed , which helped to make the drop in estrogen less severe. Fewer participants used the estrogen patch during their normal menstrual period to prevent the drop in hormones. Among all participants, eight out of 10 people reported a decrease in their menstrual migraines and were able to reduce their pain-medication use by half .

    Continuous birth control: Using a form of continuous/extended-use birth control may be an option to decrease menstrually related migraine attacks or headaches. People who took extended use combined oral contraceptives had fewer headache symptoms, and were more productive . Talk to your healthcare provider about extended use hormonal birth control, though this may not be the right therapy for everyone, especially those with migraine with auraâsee the section below on hormonal birth control for more info.

    A Complete Guide To Birth Control Patch Side Effects

    Does Hormonal Birth Control Cure or Cause Acne?

    From its 91 percent to 99 percent effectiveness rate, to the fact that you only need to change it once per week, the birth control patch offers a variety of unique advantages.

    Available as Xulane, the modern birth control patch is a safe, convenient and effective form of contraception. However, like other hormonal contraceptives, it can occasionally cause certain side effects. 

    For the most part, the side effects of the birth control patch are mild. They usually occur during the first few months after you start using the patch. However, in some cases, its possible to get lasting, persistent side effects after you start using the patch for birth control. 

    Below, weve listed all of the side effects associated with the birth control patch, as well as how frequently they occur. In addition to the common side effects of the patch, weve also looked at the less common side effects and interactions that affect a small percentage of patch users.

    Finally, weve covered what you can do to manage and treat any side effects you experience if you use the patch as your preferred form of birth control.

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    How To Prevent Headaches

    Taking your birth control pill at the same time every day may help reduce side effects. This is because your hormone levels remain steady. If you take a pill early one morning and then take one again in the afternoon the next day, it creates a gap between doses. This can cause a shift in your hormone levels and may prompt a headache. It can also lower effectiveness and increase your risk of pregnancy.

    Taking over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers before menstruation begins may also help prevent symptoms before they occur.

    Treatments that may help reduce headaches once they occur include:

    • OTC painkillers, such as naproxen or ibuprofen
    • prescription pain relievers

    The Right Contraceptive For You

    The pill has over the last decade due to growing concerns about a link between the contraceptive and depression. If you feel the pill is no longer working for you, or you suffer from migraines, consider switching to long-acting reversible contraceptives such as the coil or implant. The main benefit is that you don’t have to remember to take them every day so there’s less risk of unwanted pregnancy.

    If you have problems when coming off the pill after a long period of time, consult your GP. Many people find that it can affect your mood, skin and weight, which is unsurprising as your body will be used to a regular dose of synthetic hormones.

    But it’s not all bad news. If you do have migraines with or without aura and want to continue using hormonal contraception, Cooper assures that “the advantages of using the progestogen-only pill generally outweigh the risks” and it has not been associated with an increased risk of stroke or migraine.

    “This makes the progestogen-only pill a good alternative for women with migraines who are unable to take the combined pill,” she says.

    Remember, other progestogen-only methods, such as the implant or contraceptive injection, are also available. Speak with your GP or local sexual health clinic for more advice and a one-to-one assessment.

    Now I’ve spoken to the experts, I will definitely be choosing caution over convenience.

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    Red Bumpy Rash And Irritation

    Even condoms come with a side effect for those with latex allergies. Youll know within 20 to 30 minutes of using one if you have a latex allergy, says Benfield. A red, bumpy rash will appear. Andget thisnot only in the area where the condom has touched. People would expect, Oh, its going to be a rash where I put the condom, and thats not necessarily the case. It can be anywhere on the body, says Benfield. If an allergy presents itself, you can try polyurethane or natural condoms. The bells and whistles of some condoms on the market are also something to consider, says Dweck. Shes talking about vibrations, warming lubricant, spermicidesthese things can cause irritations. A plain condom with a separate water-soluble lubricant is always a safe choice, she suggests.

    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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    Why Do People Quit Birth Control

    Aside from trying to get pregnant, some women stop taking hormonal contraception because of how it makes them feel. One of the biggest side effects and most talked about is hormonal birth controls negative effect on libido .

    Another commonly cited side effect of hormonal birth control is its effect on mood, anxiety, and depression. Anxiety and depression have been shown to fluctuate when women take hormonal birth control . But its difficult to say whether those changes are due to birth control or other external factors that can impact mental health .

    If youre experiencing any of these side effects, quitting hormonal birth control might provide you with relief.

    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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    Whats A Migraine What Does It Feel Like

    A migraine is more than a bad headache. Its a neurologic disease with a series of symptoms that might include debilitating pain on one side of your head that you may describe as pulsing or throbbing. Menstrual migraines, also known as hormone headaches, happen right before or during a womans period and may get worse with movement, light, smells, or sound. Your symptoms may last for a few hours, but theyll likely last days.

    Its estimated that 70% of people who experience migraines are women. Of these women, 60% to 70% report a connection between their menstruation and their migraine attacks. Women experience migraine attacks three times more frequently than men.

    A menstrual migraine is one of several types of migraine headaches. Examples of other migraines include migraine with aura, migraine without aura and chronic migraine.

    Hormonal Contraception For People With Migraine

    Mirena, Weight Gain, Bleeding & Other Mirena Side Effects –

    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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