Sex and Migraine Headaches

Medically Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on December 28, 2015
From the WebMD Archives

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

"One study found that about one-quarter of patients mentioned that migraine headaches affected the frequency or quality of sex," "Five percent even said it was the cause of their divorce or end of relationship."  BUT many women get relief of their migraine with sex.

 But many women get relief of their migraine with sex.

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

Understand the Impact

Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, 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.

Migraine headaches 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 migraine headaches, but this is thought to be rare.

Hold off the Headache

Some people, especially those with chronic migraine headaches, 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 anxiety than 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 migraine headaches 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 migraine symptoms -- and re-ignite romance -- by avoiding your things that bring your headaches on.

Common triggers include:

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

Since some of these are staples of a romantic evening, you may need to rethink how you get in the mood. Skip the red wine or other booze right before sex, Monteith says. You might also keep music low, and ask your partner not to wear cologne or perfume.

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 [migraine headaches can have] on the relationship," Cohen says.

WebMD Feature



Steiner, Timothy J. Journal of Headache and Pain, published online Jan. 10, 2013.

Smith, Robert. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, published online June 11, 2003.

News release, American Headache Society.

Ifergane, G. Journal of Headache and Pain, published online March 4, 2008.

Joshua M. Cohen, MD, director of education, department of neurology, Mount Sinai West Hospital, New York City and board member, American Migraine Foundation.

Teshamae Montieth, MD, chief, Headache Division, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Office on Women's Health: "Migraine fact sheet."

The Migraine Trust: "Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and Migraine."

Houle, Timothy J. et. al. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, published online May 24, 2006.

Nappi, R.E. et. al. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, March 2012.

Eraslan, Defne et. al. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, published online, May 23, 2014.

News release, American Academy of Neurology.

Hambach, Anke et. al. Cephalalgia, published online February 19, 2013.

American Headache Society: "Essential Elements of Migraine Management 3: Trigger Identification and Management."

American Headache Society: "Ten Things That You and Your Patients with Migraine Should Know."

American Migraine Foundation: "The Impact of Family on Migraine."

© 2012 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
Click to view privacy policy and trust info