Does sexual functioning improve with migraine improvements and/or weight loss?—A post hoc analysis in the Women's Health and Migraine (WHAM) trial

Leah Schumacher, Rena Wing, J. Graham Thomas, Jelena Pavlovic, Kathleen Digre, Samantha Farris, Kristine Steffen, David Sarwer, Dale Bond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Despite plausibility of migraine headaches contributing to impaired sexual function among women, data are inconsistent and point to obesity as a potential confounder. Prospective studies that assess the relative importance of migraine improvements and weight loss in relation to sexual function could help elucidate associations among migraine, obesity and female sexual dysfunction (FSD). Objective: To evaluate sexual function changes and predictors of improvement after behavioural weight loss (BWL) intervention for migraine or migraine education (ME). Methods: Women with migraine and overweight/obesity were randomized to 16 weeks of BWL (n = 54) or ME (n = 56). Participants completed a 4-week smartphone headache diary and the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) at pre- and post-treatment. A validated FSFI total cut-off score defined FSD. We compared changes in FSFI scores and FSD rates between conditions and evaluated migraine improvements and weight loss as predictors of sexual functioning in the full sample. Results: Among treatment completers (n = 85), 56 (65.9%) participants who reported sexual activity at pre- and post-treatment were analysed. Migraine improvements were similar between conditions, whereas BWL had greater weight losses compared with ME. FSD rates did not change overall (48.2% to 44.6%, p =.66) or by condition (BWL: 56.0% to 40.0% vs. ME: 41.9% to 48.4%, p =.17). Similar patterns were observed for changes in FSFI total and subscale scores. Across conditions, larger weight losses predicted greater improvements in FSFI total and arousal subscale scores, whereas larger migraine headache frequency reductions predicted greater improvements in FSFI satisfaction subscale scores. Conclusion: Sexual functioning did not improve with either BWL or ME despite migraine headache improvements in both conditions and weight loss after BWL. However, weight loss related to improvements in physiological components of the sexual response (i.e., arousal) and overall sexual functioning, whereas reduced headache frequency related to improved sexual satisfaction. Additional research with larger samples is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalObesity Science and Practice
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • female sexual dysfunction
  • migraine
  • obesity
  • women's health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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