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Man and woman laying in bed. Man is reaching gently for woman who is turning away with a pained look on her face.

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!

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

Comments

  • maria.deleon moderator
    7 months ago

    in my experience.. the headache part of a migraine is usually relieved by intercourse… anyone else have had any experience similar? – of course if you are nauseated, hypersensitive don’t want to be intimate but if those factors are not an issue – an orgasm has been able to successfully stop the cephalgic pain ( pain in head). totally different if you get headache with intercourse – need to seek immediate medical advice especially if first time!. Maria De Leon/moderator/contributor/ patient advocate

  • tonytoshiba
    8 months ago

    I forgot about that, thank you for posting. It just sort of slipped away without noticing.

  • Kyky Knight moderator author
    8 months ago

    tonytoshiba,

    Migraine’s impact on our lives can be so encompassing that we change over time without noticing how different things are until we reflect, I know I am certainly so different than I was many years ago because of this disease. Thank you for sharing and for being a part of the community. Take good care!

  • wesixcooks
    8 months ago

    And don’t forget the preventative meds many of us take that often have very negative effects on libido.

  • Kyky Knight moderator author
    8 months ago

    Wesixcooks,

    Good point. Thank you for sharing!

  • BrownT
    8 months ago

    I am a chronic migraine sufferer. I have not had a pain free day for over ten years. Unfortunately between the pain and the medications my sexual drive is a casualty. My spouse is understanding but still healthy and it makes intimacy awkward. It is not even something that we talk about anymore. What’s the point. We both wish things would be different.
    As a tangential thought. There are many studies that have identified a correlation between early childhood trauma and migraine. To many the whole sexuality issue and migraines just seem like such unlikely bed partners. Pun intended.

  • Kyky Knight moderator author
    8 months ago

    BrownT,

    Thank you for sharing! I am glad to hear that your spouse is understanding, but so sorry that this impacts the both of you. It sounds like you have good communication, I know for me that has helped tremendously. I have read many studies and articles about adverse childhood experiences and chronic pain/illness (including migraine and asthma). I’ve found them really interesting, and upon taking one of the tests I had a very high ACE score. Definitely caused me to stop and reflect. Have a wonderful day and thank you for being a part of the community!

  • Virginia
    8 months ago

    Well 1st off my husband has bee amazing tells me he didnt marry me for the sex. He knows that when my TN migraines set in I want to be held cause there is no other pain in the world like TN if you have them you’ll understand. Our marriage isnt based on sex and once your partner thinks about that they tend to be more understanding. Yes we all Love sex and my husband let’s me tell him yes or no or he already knows before hand. As long as we have been together it helps to know that sex isnt a marriage/relationship it’s the fact that I’m still being close to my husband and it may just be the way we touch each other one day and the next day it’s making love. You can show intimacy without being intimate. I’m in the middle of the downward spiral of an onset sorry about spelling. So thought is your relationship is not only about sex it’s about being one with each other and there are other ways of being one together.

  • Kyky Knight moderator author
    8 months ago

    Virginia,

    Thanks so much for sharing! Sounds like you have a wonderful and loving partner, and that the two of you have great communication. That can really make a difference. You are so right, there are many ways of being intimate beyond sex, and sometimes chronic illness highlights that fact, excellent point. Thanks for sharing!

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