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Expert Answer: Birth Control & Migraine Prevention

Question: Can birth control help treat my migraines? Is there a particular type of birth control I should consider? If it helps, will I have to keep taking the treatment forever for my migraines?

Birth control in the form of oral contraceptive pills or the contraceptive ring (brand name Nuvaring) can help women who have a hormonal trigger to their migraines. However, there is no guarantee that birth control will lessen migraine; there is a chance that birth control can worsen migraine. Therefore, keeping a headache calendar to track the pattern of migraines before and after birth control is important.

The type of birth control most likely to help migraine is a low dose formulation (30 mcg or less of ethinyl estradiol) of the pill (or the Nuvaring) used in a continuous manner, i.e. using continuously to maintain an even or steady-state level of estrogen and only cycling off approximately every 3-6 months.

It is important to be screened to make sure contraception is safe since there is an increase risk in stroke in women who smoke or have high blood pressure and who take contraception; this risk is increased in women who have migraines especially if it is migraine with aura.

Lastly, even if a woman finds birth control helpful in preventing her migraines, she does not have to take the treatment forever. As we age, our needs for hormones change. Also, other treatments including non-hormonal medications and non-pharmacologic treatments including a healthy life-style and herbal preventives may make continued use of birth control unnecessary.

In summary, birth control can help some women with migraine but may worsen migraine in other women. It may be worth trying but careful attention to the headache pattern is needed to monitor the effect.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • krystlebriese
    7 years ago

    I know my doctor wouldn’t prescribe estrogen-based birth control to me because I get auras with my migraines. Rather I take a progesterone-based birth control instead.

  • Tuliv Migraine Defense
    8 years ago

    Great article. You have pointed out that initially hormones may seem to help lessen migraines, but given time they can easily turn on a person and cause more problems. Some hormone based birth controls carry warnings for migraineurs to use caution as the drug or IUD that releases hormones can worsen the migraine condition (see for latest on this subject). Also thank you for pointing out that herbal preventives can be helpful in the prevention of migraines – see for more on this.

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