Does contraception cause migraines?

Migraines are a type of intense headache. They’re often felt as a throbbing pain on 1 side of the head. Migraines are a fairly common health condition. They can cause people to feel sick or be more sensitive to light and sound.

What causes migraines?

It’s not clear what causes migraines. It’s thought that they are caused by temporary changes the nerves, blood vessels and chemicals in the brain.

Some people find certain situations trigger their migraines. This can include things like stress, the start of their period or certain foods. But there’s no research evidence to prove that avoiding these triggers can stop migraines happening.

How many types of migraine are there?

There are several types of migraine. The main types are migraines with aura, migraines without aura, and migraine aura without a headache.

An aura is when people experience changes to their vision or other sensations just before the headache develops. These changes usually involve flashing lights or losing part of your vision.

I get in a really weird, irritable mood several hours before any other signs. I get nauseous frequently but don't usually vomit. Occasionally I'll see bright purple flashes in both eyes leading up to and during the headache. Once it hits, I get a crushing pain in a line from my right temple up to the middle of my skull. Once the pain starts I get really sensitive to both light and sound.

Why can’t you take combined contraception if you get migraines?

It’s not recommended to take combined methods of contraception – the combined pill, the patch and the vaginal ring if you get migraines.

These methods can slightly increase your risk of blood clots, which can cause a stroke.

When people get migraines, the blood vessels in their brain are under pressure. This can also cause blood clots. So it’s too risky to take combined contraception as it further increases the risk of blood clots.

If you get your first migraine, with or without aura, while taking a combined method like the pill, you should speak to your GP or local sexual health clinic. They will most likely advise you to stop taking it, and help you find an alternative method of contraception.

What type of contraception can you take if you get migraines?

You can use methods that only use the progestogen hormone:

If you get migraines, you can use the following methods:

  • non-hormonal coil

  • condoms or other barrier methods, like diaphragms

Tell your health specialist about your migraines

Before prescribing contraception, your doctor or health specialist will need to know more about your migraines, including:

  • where you can feel the migraine in your head, for example on one side or the other 

  • the severity of the headache

  • what other symptoms you get when you have the headache, such as nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light or sound  

  • whether you get changes to your vision before the headache, such as flashing lights or changes to parts of your vision

The answers to these will help find the best type of contraception for you.

Last updated at: 21 March 2024
Published on: 23 November 2022