Migraine and Sex: It's Complicated
Well, I guess I will just say it plainly: migraine has impacted my sex life in irreparable ways. That is a heavy statement, but so is living with migraine disease. While migraine overtly impacts so many areas of my life, from my jobs to my diet, it also has a stark impact on some of the more intimate and hidden parts of my life, presenting difficult challenges to navigate in my long term relationship of seven years, as well as causing trouble in my sex life.
Difficult conversations around migraine and intimacy
The relationship between migraine disease and sex varies from person to person. While some folks experience migraine and tension relief from sex, others can be triggered or have their symptoms worsened. The experience of migraine during sex, whether it causes relief and alleviates some pain or is worsened, can cause uncomfortable and difficult conversations to arise. Plus, who wants migraine to be at the forefront of their mind during intimate moments with a partner? Navigating conversations about intimacy and migraine can be complicated and if not handled with care and compassion, can also lead to damaging misunderstandings.
Migraine and sensitivity to touch
Many in the community experience heightened sensitivity to touch during a migraine, and this sensitivity, if not communicated to those around us, can leave us vulnerable to well-intentioned affection that may actually cause us pain. What’s worse, sometimes when those around us learn we are in pain, they want to offer physical warmth or affection because in many ways people have been conditioned to offer that kind of support when someone is in pain. For folks living with migraine however, a hug and squeeze of the hand could cause us to feel even worse.
For me, feeling tingling pain during a migraine makes it so that I do not want to be touched at all----my partner knows this and is very respectful of my pain boundaries, but I can still see the pain when I know they want to be close but can’t, and I feel the loss of wanting to be held and taken care of when I am in pain, but not wanting to be touched at the same time.
Talking openly about pain
One of the things I learned over time that was important to my relationship was communicating clearly and honestly with my partner about my pain, so that they did not feel as though they were doing anything wrong, or that I didn’t want to be close to them when I did. Communication can be key to making sure that folks around us don’t feel invalidated or unwanted when migraine keeps us distant.
Fear migraine triggers
When I say migraine has impacted my sex life in irreparable ways, I mean in regards to fear. For me, sex can trigger and worsen migraine symptoms. Because of this, I’ve associated the potential for migraine pain with sex, and find myself afraid of engaging with my partner because I don’t want to possibly get sick, even if I want to be close to them. This complicated relationship with fear and sex has caused a lot of pain and discomfort for myself and my partner.
Even more complicated is that sex has also shown to alleviate migraine pain for me on occasion. I never know how I will feel and how my body will react, and this has caused me to approach the subject with great caution. The psychological impact that this fear has had, and the care with which both myself and my partner have to engage with one another in general, but especially during or around the subject of sex has been huge and difficult to deal with.
Lowered sex drive
Among the complicated navigation of pain, communication, and openly talking about sex and migraine with my partner rests also the simple fact that pain due to migraine and other illnesses has led to diminished sex drive. I find myself wanting to be in bed and left alone, with very little energy more often than not, and this makes the topic of sex rare and complex.
The topic of sex is different for each person living with migraine disease, and it is important to navigate and engage with the complicated considerations that come with migraine in ways that are true to us, individually. For me, this has meant open communication, honest acknowledgment of how I feel, and awareness of the impact migraine has on me and others around me.
Does migraine disease impact your intimate or sex life? How do you navigate conversations with your partners about migraine and sex? Let’s discuss in the comments!
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?