Video Q & A:

Treatment

Question:

Can hormonal birth control treat migraines?

Expert:   Audrey Halpern, MD, PC, Executive Director, Manhattan Center for Headache & Neurology »

Some women use the birth control pill to dodge migraine attacks. How does it work as a preventive medication? Watch this to find out!

Transcript: Hormonal fluctuations are a key migraine trigger. SIXTY percent of women link their migraine attacks to their menstrual cycle. Since birth control pills INFLUENCE that cycle, they have an impact on migraine frequency, too. While the relationship isn’t totally clear, experts think that the DROP in estrogen before the onset of a period sparks a migraine. When a woman is on the birth control pill, her estrogen levels are carefully regulated. BUT, when it’s time for the one week of PLACEBO pills, her level drops, which often SETS OFF a migraine. For some women, taking a hormone-containing pill CONTINUOUSLY, instead of popping a week’s worth of placebos, REDUCES migraine frequency. This doesn’t ALWAYS work, though. Doctors suggest using OTHER treatment options such as analgesics or triptans BEFORE resorting to using a hormonal contraceptive pill CONTINUOUSLY. That’s because SOME hormonal birth control methods RAISE a woman’s chance of stroke. Since getting migraines ALSO increases stroke risk, these two factors combined COULD be MORE dangerous. And for women who SMOKE, the threat is even HIGHER. If you’re a woman with migraine, DON’T go on hormonal birth control until you get the okay from your doctor. More »

Can't Find an Answer? Send us your question »