In advance of the release of her blockbuster film Wonder Woman, star Gal Gadot revealed that she experienced migraine attacks during the filming of a follow up to the hugely successful superhero movie. She attributed her attacks to the hormone fluctuations as a result of her pregnancy at the time with her second child.
“I found out I was pregnant while shooting Justice League. I had terrible migraines," she told W Magazine in April. "I would show up in dark glasses and they all thought I was going Hollywood, but I was only pregnant."
Not only do Gadot’s comments fuel meaningful discussion and awareness on the headache disorder—especially given that June is Migraine and Headache Awareness Month—but they also remind us of several important realities about the condition. Specifically:
Migraine disproportionately affects women
More than three times as many women have migraine than men, and an astonishing 85% of chronic migraine patients are women, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. Migraine can be especially prevalent during the “reproductive” years; hormonal changes, contraception, and pregnancy can all play a role in the frequency, intensity and duration of attacks. That makes it one of the most important health challenges facing women today.
Pregnancy can play a significant role in attacks
Surprisingly, as many as 60-70% of adult women with migraine report that their symptoms actually improve during pregnancy; however, there are still many who experience worsening attacks during this time.(1) In rare cases, migraine can even first present for a patient during pregnancy. In general, it has been recommended that non-pharmaceutical prevention and trigger management are the most desirable options to reduce pregnancy-induced head pain and other migraine symptoms.
Light sensitivity is no joke
Light can be a significant problem for people who have migraine. It can bring on attacks and/or just be a big pain during them. Gadot acknowledged that she often came to the set of the film wearing dark shades to deal with the painful light sensitivity she was experiencing. She is not alone either—up to 90% of people with migraine also deal with painful consequences from light during attacks.
The stigma of migraine is real
Gadot further acknowledged that she hid her attacks and symptoms from coworkers for fear that it might be considered a weakness. This reinforces that there is an inherent stigma that surrounds migraine and other invisible illnesses; if the pain or condition is not overtly visible, then it can easily be discounted by others. In addition, migraine is frequently misunderstood and misdiagnosed and can negatively impact employment-related disability, mental and emotional health, social relationships and more.
You can have migraine and still be a total badass
Gadot reminds us that you can have migraine and still take up the shield of Wonder Woman. You can take on anything—no matter how big or small—and be awesome doing it too. Sometimes that means getting through a long work day and other times it is the simple act of getting out of bed. Migraine can be debilitating and deflating, but it does not have to be defining. Every person has their superpowers to share with the world—not just the light show that can be visual aura either—and like Wonder Woman, we cannot wait to see them.
1 Aubé M. Migraine in pregnancy. Neurology. 1999;53(4 Suppl 1):S26-8.