Women and Migraine: Bringing women out of the shadows

Brussels, 23 March 2021

Today, EMHA and the European Parliament Migraine Alliance organised a webinar to raise awareness about the hurdles women with migraine have to overcome and call for action. The call for action is embedded in EMHA’s Policy Paper on ‘Women and Migraine: Bringing women out of the shadows’ that was launched at the webinar.

Migraine is a major public health challenge that affects 41 million people in the European Union. The challenge is higher when it comes to women: migraine is three times more common in women, a large share of women are still in the front line for childcare and household chore and women make up 67% of the workforce in the EU. Moreover, migraine presents a gender bias with specific consequent impacts on their family and professional life.

Elena Ruiz de la Torre (Executive Director, EMHA) presented the organisation’s ‘Women and Migraine’ Policy Paper and its recommendations.  The paper focusses on 5 aspects: the disease prevalence, its sex-specific factors, the impact of migraine on women’s work and personal life, and the gendered stigma associated with the disease. The higher prevalence and incidence of migraine among women, and the increased risk during specific periods of a woman’s reproductive life, clearly indicate that reproductive hormones are a key influence underlying sex differences and fluctuating susceptibility to attacks in women. The ignorance or misconceptions about women and migraine lead to barriers to overcome on the work-place (misunderstanding from employers and colleagues, absenteeism, loss of earnings). Migraine also has an impact on women’s family choices (avoid pregnancy due to worries about passing on the disease to the child, having to discontinue treatment, concern that their inability to discontinue migraine medications could harm their baby’s development). Migraine is still all too often trivialised as a women’s disease being quickly relieved by a pill. ‘Addressing the burden of migraine has the potential to unlock female resources and improve women’s quality of life overall. A better understanding of both biological and gender aspects related to migraine development and management is highly needed to provide personalised medical and social approaches. To counteract the gender bias, awareness about gendered norms is important, both in research and clinical practice.  Reframing of migraine to alleviate societal stigma is paramount.  Besides the lack of knowledge about headaches among healthcare providers, it is urgent to address women’s and their physicians’ need for comprehensive safety information to make informed decisions about medication use during pregnancy’.

‘I welcome this policy paper focusing on Women and Migraine. Migraine is three times more common in women as in men affecting them during their most productive years. It is vital we make Migraine a European health priority to improve awareness and education surrounding this debilitating condition’, said Deirdre Clune, MEP, Ireland, Member of the European Parliament Migraine Alliance.

‘Migraine affects many Europeans’ lives, but it is treatable and controllable if we just pay adequate attention. Migraine has to be taken seriously and more resources need to be dedicated to it. Apart from being a social and economic issue, migraine is very much an equality affair as well: migraine prevalence is three times more common in women and often occurs during women’s most productive years. This is why EMHA’s Policy Paper on Women and Migraine is important: we need to acknowledge conditions that affect women disproportionally and in the best case limit their impact in our societies’, said Sirpa Pietikäinen, MEP, Finland, Member of the European Parliament Migraine Alliance.

European Migraine & Headache Alliance
The European Migraine & Headache Alliance (EMHA) is a non-profit umbrella organization, with over 30 patient associations for migraine, cluster headache, trigeminal neuralgia and other headache diseases, across Europe.
The Alliance was launched in 2006 and advocates for the rights and needs of the 138 million people living with headache disorders in Europe. Its goal is to represent European migraine and headache associations, help them advocate for headache disorders and be recognised as key partners in the healthcare system. It also helps patients to be well informed and have equal access to appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
EMHA is an active member of the European Federation of Neurological Alliances (EFNA), the International Association of Patient Organizations (IAPO) and the European Patients Forum (EPF). It also works closely with organizations such as the European Headache Federation (EHF) and the European Brain Council (EBC).

Read the whole paper on the link:


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