Friday, November 16, 2012

Migraines and Hormonal Birth Control

When Tony and I were first married, we lived in Bellingham, a beautiful, hippie-dippie city in which the population swelled by 18,000 during the school year.  Bellingham is on a bay, in a valley, and nestled between mountains and hills.  The weather is terrible because it changes so frequently – it can be beautiful in the morning and gray and overcast by early afternoon.  The clouds roll down the mountains and through the valley, the barometric pressure changes uncommonly fast, and clothing choices in the morning almost never match what you’ll need for the afternoon.


I blamed this God-awful shifting weather for my migraines for three years.  I went to see specialists and neurologists, had my noggin scanned, my sinuses inspected, and still, I experienced thrice-weekly migraines the whole time we lived there.  It was horrible, and probably contributed to the depression I battled at that time.


Do you get migraines?  If so, then you know how debilitating they are.  I would power through them because I simply had no choice; I had to do homework, I had to go to grad school, I had to go to work.  But still, when I could afford to, I would let them put me right into bed for the whole day.


Then we moved out of that valley and into another, 30 miles south, and things got better.  The weather here in the Skagit Valley isn’t nearly so fickle, and I’m sure having a steady pace in life helped immensely with my overall mental health.


However, two other factors combined to eliminate my migraines, factors that are so obvious in hindsight that I can’t believe I didn’t think of them when we were living in Bellingham: I quit taking birth control and then I got pregnant.


Now, graduate school would not have been a good time for Tony and I to have a baby, but the hormonal birth control?  If I had chucked that, I probably would have eliminated most of the migraines.  But I didn’t, and I didn’t even realize that it was the big problem until after Jamie weaned.


A few months ago, I started birth control again, and the headaches came back.  Three times a week, at least.  Except that this time, instead of just lying down and sleeping until the headache abated, I had a prescription for Imitrex.  Oh, blessed science.  I wish I had had access to this drug years ago.  I take it as soon as I feel a migraine starting.  It makes me nauseated and woozy for about 30 minutes, and then, so long as I eat something substantial (full of protein and fat), I feel fine.  Like, 100% fine.  Headache gone, miracle experienced, back to life fine.


I was still kind of an idiot, though.  I honestly didn’t draw the link between the birth control pills and the headaches until I realized that I had taken 20 of the 30 Imitrex pills prescribed to me.  In a MONTH!  Something had changed, and the only thing that had changed was the birth control.  The doctor confirmed that it was the most likely culprit.


So, turns out my headaches are hormonal.  I stopped the hormonal birth control and will NEVER USE IT AGAIN.  Yeah, I still get migraines twice a month, when I’m bathed in hormones like any fertile woman, but that’s just so much better than three times a week.  Yesterday, I started to get a headache around 10:30 am.  I went home, took an Imitrex, laid down for thirty minutes, and then went to my sons’ preschool Thanksgiving lunch.  It was delicious, and by 1 pm, I was back at the office, raring to go.


I thought I’d share because, well, I would have liked this information when I was younger.  If someone had said to me, “hey, you might consider going off the Pill to see if it cures your migraines,” I might have had a happier life for those three years.


Julia said...

Yep, yep. I will never go back on the pill ever again, or any other kind of hormonal birth control. Since being off for the last three years, my headaches are a million times better too (I used to just figure it was an unavoidable part of life). Plus, if you really research the pill, there are a lot of other potentially scary side effects. Now to find alternative birth control... (I guess being pregnant takes care of that!)

Jennifer L. said...

And I was just considering going back on the pill. Scary. I heard a rumor that they don't like to prescribe the pill for anyone in their mid-thirties, but I haven't been in to talk with an ob/gyn for quite a few years so maybe I'm out of the loop. What is the best form of non-hormonal birth control these days?! --besides abstinence, of course!

Solene said...

There are different types of hormonal birth control and if you suffer from migraines, you shouldn't take birth control containing oestrogen. The mini-pill containing only progesterone substituents is best suited if you want to carry on with the pill. It helped a lot for me but there is no single answer to such problems. I also had to avoid excessive sugar, excessive hours in front of a screen (pregnancy was worst at first for me) and still get them once every 2 or 3 months.
It's good you found something that works for you.

Margarita Primavera said...

Have you tried acupuncture for your migraines? Migraines once or twice a month are definitely better than everyday, but they're still yucky migraines. Three years ago I was basically living with week-long headaches that would often turn into migraines and no drugs would get rid of them. And then I tried acupuncture... and I've barely had a headache since, and only one that actually turned into a full-on migraine. I highly highly recommend it :)

Amelia said...

Acupuncture? That's certainly worth a shot - especially if it gets rid of them entirely. You know, I think we (as women in America) have become so used to The Pill that we forget how easy it is to prevent pregnancy with condoms. Cheaper than hormonal birth control and much less stress on the body. There's also IUD devices, but when we decide to go permanent, Tony's getting snipped.

Margarita Primavera said...

I love acupuncture -- it got rid of the headaches, helped with all the aches & pains of pregnancy and I swear it's what helped get my labor started (& made it so smooth).

I got an IUD after Nico was born & I've been very happy with it - it's definitely been nice to have something I don't have to think about until I'm ready to think about it again.