Sex and Migraines

Migraines can be tough on every aspect of your life, including romance and intimacy.

“One study found that about one-quarter of patients mentioned that migraines affected the frequency or quality of sex,” says Joshua M. Cohen, MD, director of education in the department of neurology at Mount Sinai West Hospital in New York. “Five percent even said it was the cause of their divorce or end of relationship.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Take these steps to get your mojo back on track.

Understand the Impact

Symptoms of migraines include nauseavomiting, and sensitivity to smells, lights, sounds, and movement and touch.

Think about what it takes to have a good sexual experience. You can see how a migraine would limit that, says Teshamae Monteith, MD, chief of the headache division at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Migraines may also have a more direct effect in the bedroom: One study found women with these headaches said they felt a higher level of pain and distress during intercourse. But another study showed sex actually relieved migraine symptoms for some women. Still others report sex with orgasm triggered migraines, but this is thought to be rare.

Hold off the Headache

Some people, especially those with chronic migraines, may need preventive medicines. If yours happen often, ask your doctor if there’s something you can take to help stop them.

People with chronic headaches have higher levels of depression and anxietythan those who don’t get them. If you have either mood disorder and get it treated, that could boost your enthusiasm in the bedroom.

About 75% of people who get migraines are women. If that’s you, know that changes in hormone levels right before your period often trigger headaches. Knowing it’s cyclical gives you an idea of when a migraine may throw a wrench in your love-making.

For some women, taking birth control pills improves migraines, but for others, that can make them worse. Sometimes switching to a different type of pill helps.

Many people do better when they stay on a regular schedule for meals and sleep. Daily exercise and drinking lots of water can help, too.

“Lifestyle factors can have a profound impact on the condition,” Cohen says.

While being spontaneous might seem romantic, a “migraine doesn’t do very well with change,” he says.

Know Your Triggers

You can also manage your migraines — and re-ignite romance — by avoiding your things that bring your headaches on.

Common triggers include:

  • Red wine
  • Chocolate
  • Strong smells like perfume and scented candles
  • Bright light
  • Changes in weather


Talk It Out

Communication is at the heart of sex, Monteith says. It’s important to let your partner know how headaches affect every part of your life, including love-making.

You could take your spouse with you to doctor’s appointments, or you could consider getting couples counseling.

“Sometimes it is valuable to get counseling because of the impact [migraines can have] on the relationship,” Cohen says.

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