This is a somewhat sensitive question, but my doctor hasn’t had any suggestions, so I thought I’d ask the two of you. Sexual intimacy almost always triggers a migraine for me. My husband is very understanding, but we both miss it. Is there anything I can do or any medication I can take to avoid these migraines? Thank you, Joanie.
Thank you for being brave enough to ask this important question. The effect of migraine on relationships, and intimacy in particular, is often overlooked despite how important these issues are.
There are a couple of potential reasons for migraine being triggered by sexual activity. The first is similar to migraine that is triggered by any physical activity or exertion. For some, however, the trigger is specific to sexual activity. For many, it seems to occur at or shortly after orgasm.
There are not well studied treatments specific to sexual induced migraine, but there are a variety of things that can be tried. First, if it related exertion, going slowly can be helpful. But it’s less likely that this will solve your issues. If you have a migraine abortive therapy that usually works for you, like a triptan or an anti-inflammatory, you can try to take it prior to initiating sexual activity. If this is not effective or you value spontaneity, ask you doctor about “long acting” triptans, such as frovatriptan, which possibly could be effective if taken up to 24 hours in advance.
Thank you for your question,
Dave Watson and Teri Robert
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© David Watson and Teri Robert, 2016.
Dr. David Watson is a UCNS certified migraine and headache specialist and the director of the West Virginia University Headache Center. Dr. Watson takes a special interest in migraines, cluster headaches, and tension-type headaches. He strives to stay up-to-date on current research and treatments and regularly attends continuing medical education conferences. “Dr. Dave” is also very active in the migraine community, taking part in and leading advocacy efforts to benefit the entire community. He is the founder and chairman of the board of Runnin’ for Research, a nonprofit organization that helps interested patients and doctors set up races in their areas to raise research funding for headache disorders. He’s also a regular participant in the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy’s “Headache on the Hill” event and is co-secretary of the American Headache and Migraine Association. You can follow Dr. Watson on Twitter.
Teri Robert is a leading patient educator and advocate in the area of migraine and other headache disorders, and has been writing for the HealthCentral migraine site since 2007. She is a co-founder of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy and the American Headache and Migraine Association. She received the National Headache Foundation’s Patient Partners Award for “ongoing patient education, support, and advocacy,” in 2004 and a Distinguished Service Award from the American Headache Society in 2013. You can find links to Teri’s work on her web site and blog and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.
Do you have questions about Migraine? Reader questions are answered by UCNS certified Migraine and headache specialist Dr. David Watson, and award-winning patient educator and advocate Teri Robert. Questions may be submitted via our submission form. Accepted questions will be answered by publishing the answers in our Ask the Clinician column. For an overview of how we can help and questions we can and can’t answer, please see Seeking Migraine and Headache Diagnoses and Medical Advice.