The type of birth control you use can affect the frequency and severity of your migraine episodes.
There are many types of birth control available. Some include hormones, and others don’t.
Selecting a birth control method is a personal decision, one that should take into account your health, lifestyle, and reproductive needs.
Hormonal contraceptive methods include:
- oral contraceptives (commonly called the birth control pill or “the pill”)
- transdermal patches
- intrauterine devices (IUDs)
- vaginal rings
The types and amounts of hormones these contraceptives have can vary. For example, many include a combination of hormones, such as estrogen and progestin. Others use only progestin.
Some people may experience headaches and migraine episodes from hormonal birth control, along with other side effects. There’s also an increased risk of blood clots and stroke in people who use birth control containing estrogen.
This may present a problem for people who have migraine with aura since it’s associated with an elevated risk of ischemic stroke.
On the flip side, hormonal birth control may reduce migraine episodes because it controls your hormone levels. This may be most beneficial to those who experience menstrual migraine.
Other types of birth control don’t involve hormones. Nonhormonal birth control methods aren’t linked to migraine symptoms or relief.
- the copper IUD (Paragard)
- barrier methods, like condoms, diaphragms, and sponges
- natural rhythm methods, like charting your cycle to know when you’re likely to be most and least fertile
- surgical procedures, like tubal ligation and vasectomy
In general, surgical procedures eliminate the possibility of pregnancy. Barrier methods and natural rhythm methods
A migraine episode may start a few days before your period and then continue a few days into it. This can occur because your hormone levels drop leading up to your menstrual period.
These episodes are considered menstrual migraine if they occur in
Your doctor may suggest hormonal birth control to manage menstrual migraine. This may include a supplement that contains extra estrogen to take in the days surrounding your period or a form of hormonal birth control that delivers a continuous level of hormones throughout your cycle.
Although some oral contraceptives, like Seasonale, deliver the same level of hormones every day of the month, most brands include a week of inactive or “placebo” pills in each pack.
You may be able to eliminate the week of pills without hormones and take birth control pills that contain hormones continuously. Your healthcare professional can advise you on how to best begin this process.
If you aren’t already using a method that delivers a continuous level of hormones throughout your cycle, you might consult with your doctor about switching.
The symptoms of migraine with aura are more severe than those of migraine without aura.
Symptoms like nausea and visual changes characterize migraine with aura before and during the migraine episode. These episodes can also cause disturbances in your sensations and speech.
This type of migraine can increase your risk of stroke, as can many types of hormonal birth control containing estrogen.
Not all health organizations agree with this. It’s important to discuss the risks of hormonal birth control and migraine with aura with your healthcare professional. Your clinician may also consider factors like age, tobacco use, and overall medical history.
If you have migraine with aura, your doctor may recommend a progestin-only birth control method. These methods do not carry the same risks as combination methods.
Progestin-only birth control is available in pill and injectable form, as well as IUDs and implants.
The symptoms of migraine without aura include vomiting, nausea, and light sensitivity, but you won’t experience visual or sensory disruptions before the onset of an episode.
There are fewer risks for people using birth control with a combination of hormones in the event of migraine without aura. This is because migraine without aura isn’t associated with the same increased risk of stroke.
Birth control in any form carries risks. Some birth control methods are less effective than others and can result in unintended pregnancy. Most birth control methods do not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
In addition to being a possible trigger for migraine episodes, hormonal birth control may have certain side effects, including:
- irregular menstruation
- vaginal bleeding between periods
- changes in mood
- chest soreness
- weight gain
Seek medical attention if you experience:
- an increase in headaches or migraine episodes
- more severe headaches or migraine episodes
- new or worsening symptoms, such as migraine with aura when you usually experience migraine without aura
The type of birth control you choose to use may affect your migraine episodes.
If you have migraine with aura, progestin-only pills or nonhormonal birth control may be best. You may have more birth control options if you experience migraine without aura or menstrual migraine.
Discuss your migraine symptoms, along with other health and lifestyle factors, with your healthcare professional when choosing birth control.