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Migraines and Sex

How to keep your migraines from wrecking your sex life.

Migraines and Hormones continued...

Pregnancy hormones may also play a role in migraines. During pregnancy, migraines may increase in frequency or worsen in intensity, and migraines in women with auras often worsen. But in some women, these headaches may improve during pregnancy. Some women also may have their first migraine during pregnancy. Nonpharmacologic treatments are important in managing migraines during pregnancy, but treatment with preventive therapy may be needed.

For men and women, midlife is the peak time for migraine vulnerability. For many women, migraine declines after menopause -- often if they are taking estrogen for other menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, Martin says.

Migraines, Sexual Desire, and Orgasm

Wake Forest University headache researcher Timothy Houle, PhD, has studied the sex drive of men and women who get migraines. And he's been surprised by what he found.

In a small study Houle led in 2006, male and female migraine sufferers reported thinking more about sex than people who don't get migraines. But other research has shown lower levels of sexual desire, and higher levels of sexual pain, in people who get migraines.

In addition, some studies show that people find migraine relief by having an orgasm. But orgasm can sometimes trigger a headache -- even in women who don't get migraine headaches, Martin says. 


MIgraines and Intimacy

Migraines present couples a challenge to build tolerance and patience -- and that takes emotional maturity, says San Diego family and marriage counselor Barbara Cunningham, PsyD.

Cunningham recalls a couple she worked with, in which the woman had migraines. "She was extremely attentive and loving and affirmational," Cunningham says. The wife "learned to create an emotional bank account" with her partner. "So if a migraine struck at an inopportune time, there was that emotional bank account. He felt loved and valuable, not pushed away."

But if the couple is "reactive" -- they don't get along -- "adding a migraine headache to their already full plate is enough to create a problem that puts them more at risk of breaking up," Cunningham says. "You have to assess a lot of things in the relationship besides the symptom.'' Stress reduction may help the partner who doesn't get migraines, and couples therapy may be part of their long-term plan.

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