Contraception For Migraines
For many people, a migraine is much worse than a bad headache. Migraines can significantly impact your day-to-day life, stopping you from carrying on with your normal routine. Some people find that they need to stay in bed until they feel better.
Migraines are a common health condition and they usually start in early adulthood. In fact, migraines affect around one in every five women, and one in every fifteen men.
While there is no cure for migraines, there are treatments available to help ease your symptoms. But which is the best contraception to use if you get migraines?
Here, you can find out more about migraines and why they happen, when you should speak to your doctor, which contraceptives you can use and why some birth control can make migraines worse.
What is a migraine?
A migraine is a moderate to severe headache which feels like a throbbing pain, often on one side of the head. In some cases, pain can affect both sides of the head, as well as the neck and face. You also may find that the pain worsens when you move.
Aside from an intense headache, you may also experience nausea and vomiting. You might notice that you become particularly sensitive to light and sound too. This is why many people who suffer migraines choose to rest in a quiet, dark room.
Many women experience migraines around the time of their period. This is referred to as a menstrual migraine. Some teenage girls experience menstrual migraines around the time that their periods start.
Aside from your period, you may notice that you experience menstrual migraines during pregnancy or during the menopause.
Migraine with aura
A migraine with aura refers to when there are specific warning signs that a migraine is about to occur. These warning signs are temporary, and this happens to around one in three people who experience migraines.
The symptoms of a migraine with aura include:
- Seeing flashing lights, blind spots or zig-zag patterns
- A numbness or tingling feeling, similar to the sensation of pins and needles, usually starting in one hand and travelling up the arm to the face
- Difficulty speaking
- Feeling dizzy
- Loss of consciousness, although this is very unusual
Aura symptoms can develop within five minutes and last up to an hour. It is possible to experience aura symptoms then go on to have a mild headache, or even no headache at all.
Migraine without aura
Migraine without aura refers to when a migraine occurs without any specific warning signs. This is the most common type of migraine .The frequency of these migraines can vary. They could happen a few times a week or several times a year.
Migraine aura without headache
Sometimes referred to as a silent migraine, a migraine aura without headache is when an aura occurs, or other migraine symptoms, but a headache does not develop. In this case, those with a silent migraine may experience the usual aura symptoms, such as vision problems, but not experience intense head pain.
When to see your doctor about your migraines
Migraines can be extremely debilitating, so it’s important you seek medical help if this issue is impacting your day-to-day life. You should speak to your doctor if you experience severe migraines on a regular basis, or if you have them more than five days in a month.
It may take you some time to find a treatment that works for you.
Contraception and migraines
For some, contraceptives can ease the symptoms of migraines. At the time of your period, your oestrogen levels drop, and in turn these hormone changes can trigger a migraine attack.
If you experience migraines with aura, it’s advised that you do not take the combined pill. This is because the risk of having an ischaemic stroke is increased by using the combined pill.
Their GP will be able to advise whether the combined pill is the best contraception for you.
If you are unable to take the combined pill, the progestogen-only pill could be an alternative for you. This is a hormonal contraception which is taken every day without a break and contains desogestrel - a synthetic version of the female sex hormone progesterone.
The progestogen-only pill can be taken by those who experience migraines with aura, as it doesn’t carry the same risks as birth control methods which contain a combination of hormones, such as the combined pill.
You may want to discuss your options with your doctor to help you find a birth control pill for migraines that’s right for you.
Can contraceptives make migraines worse?
Using contraception can help ease the symptoms of migraines for some women, but for others it can make these intense headaches worse. Everyone reacts differently to birth control.
For example, some women find that the combined pill causes their migraine attacks to become more painful or more frequent during their seven-day break. If you are using the combined pill and start to experience migraines with aura, you should stop taking it and speak to your doctor who may recommend an alternative form of contraception.