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Hormonal Birth Control for Menstrual Migraine & Insurance Denials

Despite the Affordable Care Act’s required coverage of birth control, some insurers are denying coverage of the birth control patch or NuvaRing, NPR reports. There are a few exceptions to the rule, but nearly all health plans are required to cover all FDA-approved birth control. If you have been denied coverage, NPR recommends appealing the denial and contacting your state insurance board.

How is this relevant to headache/migraine/chronic illness? Hormonal birth control is one method of managing menstrually associated migraine attacks, which tend to be more severe than the migraines a woman has other times of the month. The patch and the ring provide a steadier dose of hormones than a pill does, which makes them more effective for this purpose.

I’ve been using NuvaRing continuously (with one-week breaks every three or four months) since January 2010 and it has been tremendously helpful. Now, the most severe migraines I get happen the few times a year I have to stop the ring for a withdrawal bleed. (You can learn more about skipping periods on The Well-Timed Period.)

This method is generally not recommended for women who have migraine with aura, who are at greater risk of stroke if they use hormonal birth control. However, I recommend talking it over with your headache specialist to decide if it is a good option for you, whether you have migraine with or without aura. Given the frequency and severity of my migraines, my headache specialist said he’d advise me to continue using the NuvaRing even if I did have migraine with aura.

(If you don’t want to/can’t use hormonal birth control for some reason, triptans can be used to prevent menstrual migraine attacks.)

I always love to read your comments, but I’m on vacation and won’t be able to reply until the week of Sept. 8. Please don’t think I’m ignoring you!

3 Responses to Hormonal Birth Control for Menstrual Migraine & Insurance Denials

  1. Mindy says:

    I use Implanon for the same reason. I first tried it 5.5 years ago when my migraines were episodic & definitely worse 1x/mo. It worked! I was migraine free for 1.5years, but due to other reasons had it removed & my migraines returned almost immediately & turned chronic 2yrs ago. After I gave birth to my son, my headache clinic dr & I decided it was worth a shot to see if they could help my migraines since we weren’t planning anymore children soon. I’ve had it 9mo now & haven’t noticed a difference, but I do enjoy not “thinking” about my birth control. In my case it’s taken away all periods as well except the occasional/rare light spotting. I hope talking about implanon (or nuvaring) gives help to some other women out there!

  2. Emi says:

    I moved from a pill to Nuva Ring for the same reasons 2 years ago and I am rarely affected by a migraine solely induced by hormones. Like most, I have many other triggers and I find if I have multiple triggers combine, I can still get headaches during my cycle (nothing is perfect!! Lol).

  3. Thanks for sharing your stories! I’m glad hormonal birth control helps you both.

    The National Headache Foundation just published a story urging women with migraine to avoid NuvaRing: http://www.headaches.org/content/women-migraine-cautioned-against-using-contraceptive-ring. It doesn’t caution against all hormonal birth control, but definitely the ring for women who have migraine with aura or complicated migraine.

    Take care,
    Kerrie

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