The Agony… and the Ecstasy

From the Congress of the International Headache Society, Philadelphia:
by Michele G. Sullivan

photo by Michele G. Sullivan


It’s probably no surprise that a poster entitled “How Often Do Women Use Headache as an Excuse to Avoid Sex,” would draw a steady audience at this meeting.

To be sure, there were the requisite amounts of shoulder-punching among the men and giggling among the women, but once Dr. Jose Carvalho launched into his study details, more serious conversation evolved. Most women with migraine, it turns out, are willing to put their pain on hold to try and preserve their sexual relationships.

Dr. Carvalho, a neurologist at the Fortaleza General Hospital, Brazil, and his colleagues interviewed 60 women: 30 who were regularly seen for migraine at the hospital’s headache clinic and 30 hospital patients with no history of headache. Their average age was 46; most (58%) were married.

“We asked them on how many occasions have they used headache as an excuse to avoid sex, and we found out that this cliché is not true, especially among women with migraine,” Dr. Carvalho said.

A third of the women without migraine said they sometimes faked a headache to put off a sexual encounter. But only 10% of women with migraine said they had ever used their headaches as an excuse to avoid sex – despite the fact that 67% said migraines negatively impacted their sexual relationship.

“Eighty-two percent of our women with migraine said that having a healthy sexual relationship with their partner was very important for them,” Dr. Carvalho said. The numbers suggest that many women with migraine try their best to live as normal a life as possible, despite chronic pain that keeps intruding on their efforts.

His survey also uncovered an encouraging nugget about the men in his patients’ lives as well. When headache did cut romance short, “All of our patients with migraine except one said that their partners always respected their wishes.”

—Michele G. Sullivan (@MGSullivan on Twitter)
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Filed under Anesthesia and Analgesia, Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Neurology and Neurological Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Primary care, Psychiatry

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