Culture and Lifestyle > Physical Health

The Facts About Migraines

Find out how migraines affect your sexual health.

A woman sits in bed with her head in her hand.

Experiencing a migraine represents more than a bad headache. It's a disabling genetic neurological condition with various symptoms and different treatment approaches.


With a wide range of disease severity, migraines affect each person differently. Some may experience frequent incapacitating attacks, while others have sporadic attacks.

According to estimates from the American Migraine Foundation, about 39 million Americans suffer from migraines: 1 in 5 women, 1 in 16 men and 1 in 11 children. Women experience migraine attacks three times more frequently than men, most likely due to hormonal factors.

Types of migraines

The two basic forms of migraines are those with aura and those without. Auras—temporary disturbances in vision, speech, feeling, balance or coordination—precede the headache in 20 percent to 30 percent of migraine sufferers.

A migraine without an aura begins suddenly and without any prior symptoms.

Symptoms of prodrome migraines

Prodrome is a medical term for early signs or symptoms of a disease that appear before major symptoms begin. With a migraine, prodrome can begin several hours or days before the aura or headache phases of a migraine attack. Common symptoms of prodrome include:

  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Fatigue
  • Fluid retention
  • Food cravings
  • Frequent yawning
  • Increased urination
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Neck stiffness
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Trouble concentrating

Common triggers

There are numerous factors that might cause migraines, such as:

  • Beverages, particularly alcohol and coffee.
  • Foods such as aged cheeses and salty, processed foods, as well as food additives, such as aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG).
  • Medications, such as oral contraceptives and vasodilators.
  • Oral contraceptives are hormonal medications that can make migraines worse. However, some women find using these drugs reduces the frequency of their migraine attacks.
  • Sexual activity and strenuous exercise.
  • Stress and sensory stimuli, including loud noises and flashing lights, and changes in sleep patterns.
  • Women's hormonal fluctuations. Many women seem to experience migraines when their estrogen levels fluctuate, such as during menstrual periods, pregnancy and menopause.

Sensory disorders

A migraine attack is preceded by a sensory disturbance known as an aura. The normal duration of migraine without aura is a few hours to a few days. Auras tend to make migraines linger a lot longer.

There are numerous sensory symptoms that people with migraine aura may experience, such as:

  • Sensory modifications. Numbness or tingling in the hands, fingers, face or body.
  • Speech or language issues. Slurring or mumbling of words, and the inability to produce the appropriate words.
  • Visual disturbances. Seeing stars, spots, flashes or even briefly losing sight.

Aura migraines

An aura is a group of symptoms that occasionally accompany migraines. They occur in roughly 25 percent of migraine cases. Auras come in a variety of forms; a visible aura is the most common type, which could be:

  • Blurriness or blind patches in your peripheral vision
  • Bright lights flash in your field of view

Some auras can make you feel numb or tingly, while others make you have trouble speaking or understanding others. Less frequently, balance and movement coordination problems can occur.

Causes of aura migraines

Research has indicated an electrical or chemical pulse that travels across the brain is the probable cause of aura migraine. The type of symptoms you can encounter depend on the area of the brain where the electrical or chemical wave occurs.

Vestibular migraines

Vestibular migraine refers to a particular type of migraine that is primarily characterized by symptoms of dizziness. Attacks can range anywhere from seconds in some people to days in others, although they often linger between minutes and hours.

In about half of patients, vestibular migraines are followed by or occur with a headache or visual abnormalities, but they typically occur without headaches. Vomiting, sweating, flushing, diarrhea and visual abnormalities such as blurring, flashing lights and difficulty focusing are all common symptoms of vestibular migraine.

Causes of vestibular migraines

Vestibular migraines are frequently hereditary. Although the complicated mechanisms underlying migraines are not fully understood, it is accepted that women typically experience vestibular migraines more frequently than males do, and menstruation can worsen symptoms.

People who are susceptible to vestibular migraines may get attacks after consuming foods such as chocolate, cheese, red wine and monosodium glutamate.

Disrupted sleep may also play a role.

Abdominal migraines

A type of migraine known as an abdominal migraine causes episodes of nausea, vomiting and stomach pain. It differs from regular migraine attacks because head pain isn't typically a symptom. Children are the main victims of this illness. Between attacks, there are no symptoms, and episodes can last anywhere from two hours to three days.

Causes of abdominal migraines

The exact cause of abdominal migraines (known as stomach migraine) is unknown. One theory is that the altered levels of histamine and serotonin the body produces may contribute, and feeling upset or anxious may also have an impact.

Some people may develop stomach migraines after eating foods such as chocolate, foods containing monosodium glutamate or processed meats containing nitrites. Similar stomach problems may be brought on by swallowing a lot of air.

Bloating and difficulty eating may result from abdominal migraine.

Birth control and migraines

Birth control medications can occasionally reduce migraines, but they can also aggravate headaches. The woman and the hormones present in the birth control pill she takes usually determine how birth control affects migraines.

Migraines can be brought on by a decline in estrogen levels, and it's because of the drop in estrogen levels right before menstruation. Birth control tablets may help you avoid headaches if you experience these menstrual migraines by stabilizing your estrogen levels throughout the menstrual cycle.

Some women discover that taking combination birth control tablets causes them to develop migraines or makes them worse. However, upon using birth control medication for a few months, headaches often start to get better.

Menstrual cycles and migraines

A decrease in estrogen is the primary cause of menstrual migraines. Estrogen levels decline just before a woman's menstrual flow begins (menses). Premenstrual migraines develop during or directly after the time when progesterone and estrogen levels in women reach their lowest point.

Statistically, most migraine sufferers are female and at least 60 percent have seen a connection between their menstrual cycle and headaches, discovering they experience migraines just before or during their period. Migraines related to menstruation might begin up to three days prior to your period.

Migraines and pregnancy

Migraines in women are associated with greater risks of pregnancy complications, according to a large prospective study published in May 2022. Women suffering from migraine headaches also have an increased risk of coronary artery disease and stroke.

Reproductive-age women are two to three times more likely than men of similar age to suffer from migraines.

Endometriosis and migraines

Research has suggested an association between endometriosis and painful migraine headaches. One study published in 2018 indicated adolescents diagnosed with endometriosis were more likely to experience migraines (69 percent) than those without endometriosis (about 30 percent).

Additionally, people who experienced endometriosis and migraines had higher dysmenorrhea (severe and frequent menstrual cramps) than participants who didn't have migraines.

Sexual health and migraines

It's critical to communicate to your partner the impact headaches have on all aspects of your life, including sex. Be honest and open, and don't be embarrassed to ask for advice from experts.

You may, for instance, ask your partner to join you for doctor's appointments so they are better informed about your health. Another choice is to seek relationship and mental health counseling for couples from a qualified professional.

Treatment options

A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can be used to treat migraines. Triptans, a class of tryptamine medications known as vasoconstrictors because they tighten blood vessels and raise blood pressure, are also one of the available treatments.

Additionally, a class of medications known as gepants, which target the calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) receptor, was created specifically to treat acute migraines.

Tricyclic antidepressants, anticonvulsants and antihypertensives were initially developed to treat other problems, but research indicates some subgroups of these medications can lessen the frequency and severity of migraine attacks.

Chronic migraines have been reported to respond quite well to botulinum toxin (brand name: Botox).

Managing migraines

Try to treat your migraine symptoms as soon as possible. When migraine symptoms begin:

  • Avoid smoking or drinking coffee
  • Don't drink alcohol
  • Drink water to avoid dehydration
  • Place a cool cloth on your head
  • Rest in a quiet, dark room
  • Try to sleep

Over-the-counter pain medicines, such as ibuprofen, are typically helpful when a migraine is mild. Your doctor may have you take prescription medications, which can come in a variety of forms, including pills, nasal sprays, rectal suppositories and injections.


Knowing what causes a migraine episode and attempting to avoid it are the best strategies for prevention. Avoiding the trigger, which could be certain foods or being under stress, may help you prevent a migraine. Using preventive drugs and altering your lifestyle may help you avoid migraines. Medication could lessen the frequency and duration of your migraines, too, as well as their severity.

Migraines can be triggered by skipping meals, so having breakfast in the morning and then eating at least once every three or so hours after that can help prevent migraines. Migraines can also be brought on by dehydration, so make sure you're drinking enough water.

While you cannot always control stressful situations, you can control how you react to them. Migraines can result from stressful events, so relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga can help reduce the level of stress you're feeling.


What are the two main types of migraines?

Migraines come in two basic types: those with aura and those without. About 20 percent of people who experience migraines experience an aura, which is a momentary impairment in vision, speech, sensation, balance or coordination. A migraine without an aura begins abruptly and without any prior symptoms.

How long does a migraine last?

If untreated, a migraine typically lasts from two hours to three days. How often migraines occur varies by the individual. They could happen several times a month or only once a year.

When should I be worried about a migraine?

If recurrent headaches affect a person's capacity to function or their quality of life, they should consider seeking professional help. People should see a doctor if their migraines result in any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty moving one side of the body
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness or tingling in the head, neck, face or limbs
  • Problems with thinking
  • Trouble communicating or comprehending what others are saying
  • Vision issues