5 Sexual Health Rules Gynecologists Break

Decades ago, researchers discovered that women on the pill had a higher risk of stroke. And since migraines have been linked to stroke risk, you may have been warned off hormonal birth control if you get these headaches.

Why Doctors Break It: Experts now attribute the risk associated with birth control to the high doses of estrogen in older versions. Back then, a single pill contained about the same amount you’d find in five of the lowest-dose pills today. For women with migraine, recent research shows that today’s very- and ultra-low- dose pills are safe, as long as they predictably inhibit ovulation. “The risk of stroke seems to disappear entirely with these options,” says Anne Calhoun, MD, a researcher at Carolina Headache Institute in Durham, North Carolina. The CDC still advises women who get migraines with aura (i.e., sensory symptoms) to avoid hormonal birth control, and gynos tend to heed that guideline.

Meanwhile, the pill can actually help ease menstrual-related migraines if you skip the placebo phase. “Around the start of your period, estrogen levels drop, which can trigger a migraine,” says Dr. Minkin. Starting a new pack right away provides a steady dose of estrogen and may help you avoid a head-pounder.

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