Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Little Couple, Hormones & Migraines

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On a recent episode of TLC's The Little Couple, Jennifer (Jen) Arnold mentioned she was experiencing frequent migraine attacks as a result of hormones she was taking to prepare her body for a fertility procedure. Jen and her husband Bill Klein are little people who are featured in a reality show about their day-to-day lives.

Jen is a neonatologist (a medical doctor who specializes in working with newborn babies, especially those born prematurely or with serious health problems). Bill is a successful business owner. While they face many challenges as a result of living in a world built for people with larger bodies and medical issues often experienced by little people, they have quite clearly excelled in their careers and are leading a really fun life together.

Jen and Bill are preparing for parenthood and exploring the options available to them. Because of Jen's short stature and type of dwarfism, which present serious risks to her health and that of a potential future child, they have decided to try to harvest her eggs and use a surrogate to carry their baby.

Jen has a history of migraine attacks, as documented on the show when she experienced an attack the day of her brother-in-law's wedding on episode 13 of the show's first season. As someone who is predisposed to migraines, it is not surprising that Jen is having more frequent attacks after starting hormone injections to prepare for egg retrieval. Hormone fluctuations commonly lead to changes in the patterns of a migraineur's attacks.

Some researchers believe hormones are one possible reason why women are three times more likely than men to be migraine sufferers. Among children boys and girls are equally likely to be migraineurs, but there is a sharp increase in migraine occurrence rates for young women after they begin menstruation. It is also common for women to be able to track their migraine attacks with specific portions of their menstrual cycles. For some women use of hormonal birth control methods can increase the frequency of their attacks. However some women find their attacks can be minimized by taking three or four months worth of birth control in a row without allowing their bodies to have a period. Whether it is safe for a particular woman to use hormonal birth control at all or to take it this way is something for each woman to discuss with her own doctor.

Pregnancy and menopause can also affect the frequency of migraine attacks for women who are predisposed to them because of the changes in estrogen levels among women during those phases. Many women who are transitioning into menopause find they are able to help reduce the hormone-related migraine trigger by finding an appropriate hormone replacement therapy. This is also something to discuss with a doctor. There are benefits and drawbacks to all the available options that should be carefully considered.

National Headache Foundation: Hormones & Migraines
The Little Couple: Season 1 Episode 13
6 Questions about Surrogacy for Bill Klein of The Little Couple

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DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site constitutes medical or legal advice. I am a patient who is engaged and educated and enjoys sharing my experiences and news about migraines, pain and depression. Please consult your own health care providers for advice on your unique situation.