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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Safer Sex & Birth Control » The Pill and Migraines?

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Author Topic: The Pill and Migraines?
Member # 45174

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I've been considering going on the pill for some time now for many reasons. In addition to wanting to be safe in case I do decide to have sex in the near future, I have heard that oral contraceptives can have many positive health benefits, primarily regulating moods and/or reducing symptoms of PMS, alleviating cramping, and even help with hormonal migraines. I've also heard the opposite: that certain bcps can actually worsen migraines and other such symptoms.

I've been suffering from migraines, which I believe to be hormonal (since I get the worst ones right before/during ovulation and menstruation, and get mild ones in the two weeks from ovulation to my period), from as young as twelve, and over time, they've gradually gotten worse so that OTC painkillers, primarily Advil and Tylenol, just aren't working as well as they used to. I'm looking for a solution, and if the Pill's it, that's great, but even if the Pill won't help my migraines, I still would like to go on it in the near future (as it's the best form of contraception imo to which I have access/can afford) but I want to know what sort of risks there are, considering my preexisting condition. I've heard that low-estrogen, progestin-only, and extended-dosage pills (like Seasonale) all are fairly effective at helping hormonal migraines. Does anyone know anything about this, or has had any personal experience with brands that do or don't work? Or is going on the pill at all with migraines just a bad idea?

Thank you very much for your help [Smile]

Posts: 17 | From: California | Registered: Dec 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Executive Director & Founder
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The pill is actually often contraindicted for people with migraine headaches, especially those with aura.

(I also don't know what you mean about the pill regulating moods: a side effect of the pill can be mood changes, but it's not something prescribed to anyone to IMPROVE mood.)

Have you talked to your prescribing physician about your migraines and the pill yet? If not, that's the right place to start.

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Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 25469

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Oh, me too! I've had migraines since age 11--they started out so bad that I would be almost blind with aura, vomiting from the pain, and having neurological symptoms (not being able to talk). I went on a couple of birth control pills (tried 3 or 4 different brands) and I finally settled on Estrostep, or at least, the generic version of it. That worked for me until recently (about 6 years) and I'm going to be trying a newer, lower progesterone pill soon.

The shorter response is that yes, I experienced significant improvement going on the pill. It was also probably improved by fixing my sleep schedule and going to bed at a regular hour, but I know the hormones played a role. Good luck!

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Member # 45174

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Heather -
Thanks for your reply! I haven't been able to talk to the physician I'd be getting the prescription from (and won't be able to for more than a week) since I'm planning on getting it from my school, which is on the opposite coast. I /did/ see my old pediatrician today about my migraines, and he did prescribe me something for them but wouldn't really listen/offer anything helpful when I tried to discuss the potential hormonal causes of my migraines. I didn't ask him specifically about whether or not it would be ok for me to go on birth control. This was for several reasons - primarily because my mom was there and, being a crazy-strict catholic she gets freaked out if you even mention birth control, and, secondly, because I don't think he would have been much help (due to past experience.)

(And about the mood thing - I mentioned that because I knew Yaz, for example, could be used to treat many of the symptoms of PMDD, including some of the psychological ones - and I realize that PMDD is a LOT different and more severe than "just moodiness", but I looked further into it and there were some medical articles that said that some versions of the pill could help with moderate to severe PMS emotional symptoms as well.)

Cashmere - Thanks for replying! Glad to know the pill worked for you, especially since your migraines sound so terrible! [Frown] I will definitely look into that then, and try regulating my sleep schedule more.

Posts: 17 | From: California | Registered: Dec 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 45250

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Cashmere: Migraine with aura is listed as a contra-indication in the reference I looked at (British National Formulary 54th ed) as it is suspected of increasing the risk of blood clots and stroke. Does the physician who you're getting the OCP from know about your migraine? Do you have any family history listed below? Do you have blood groups A or AB?

pandora_paradoxx: You didn't mention your migraine had aura or not, if you do, then OCPs shouldn't be prescribed to you in the first place. If your migraines have no aura, then you need to have a good look at your other risk factors and maybe even finding out your blood group and tests for blood clotting disorders.

Long answer: The big concern with OCPs with people who have migraines is the increased risk of stroke (blood clot in the brain). See this recent study which states OCP users with migraine with aura (sparkling zig zag lines or a blot in your vision, but sometimes weakness on one side of the body) have a 1.5x risk of stroke assuming no other risk factors.

Biologically, it is the estrogen in the OCP that interacts with blood clotting factor VIII that makes the blood more viscous and more likely to clot. People with blood groups A and AB have more factor VIII and clots more easily, and hence have a higher risk. Conversely, people with blood groups B or O have a lower risk.
Other risk factors include a family history of stroke, blood clotting disorders, and obesity.

Posts: 10 | From: Sydney, Australia | Registered: Jan 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator

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