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How does taking birth control pills affect migraines?

Dawn Marcus
Neurology
Hormonal contraceptives include products that combine estrogen and progestin, and those that contain progestin only. Oral contraceptive birth control pills disrupt the menstrual cycle by blocking ovulation. Estrogen-progestin combination pills often provide three weeks of active hormone pills, followed by placebo pills for a week. The drop in estradiol that occurs during this placebo week often triggers a menstrual headache. Headache cycling is less consistently linked with progestin-only contraceptives.

Interestingly, oral contraceptives may cause some women to start having migraines. Although most women with preexisting headaches will not notice any worsening after starting oral contraceptives, new onset migraine is more likely to occur in women taking oral contraceptives, compared to those not using birth control pills. When migraines begin after starting birth control pills, they usually go away after discontinuing the medication, although improvement may take several months and does not occur for all women. If you have new-onset aura after starting birth control pills, be sure to see your doctor.
The Woman's Migraine Toolkit: Managing Your Headaches from Puberty to Menopause (A DiaMedica Guide to Optimum Wellness)

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The Woman's Migraine Toolkit: Managing Your Headaches from Puberty to Menopause (A DiaMedica Guide to Optimum Wellness)

Migraines are a common, controllable type of headache that affects one in every six women, more than 20 million in the United States alone. The Woman’s Migraine Toolkit helps readers take charge of...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.