Hormones and Migraines
Hormone levels fluctuate greatly over the course of a woman's life—as do the risk of migraines.
Of the many discomforts caused by a menstrual cycle, head pain may seem like an unfair addition. Yet this is a surprisingly common occurrence for more than half of women who have migraines.1
Research shows that the risk of migraines could be intricately linked with the rise and fall of hormone levels. Women who are most likely to experience migraines do so in the days directly before and after the first day of their period.1
Physicians often qualify and treat these migraines as “menstrual migraines” if they occur without aura and around the onset of a woman’s period during at least two-thirds of the monthly cycles. 2 Menstrual migraines tend to be more severe, last longer, and are more likely to recur over the course of several days compared to non-menstrual-related migraines. 3
How Do Menstrual Migraines Occur?
So what's going on with your hormone levels that allow migraines to take hold at the absolute worst time of the month?
While a whole cascade of hormonal changes occur throughout the monthly cycle (and at the beginning of a woman's period), fluctuations in levels of estrogen and prostaglandins are believed to be most related to menstrual migraines. 3
How so? Estrogen levels fall every month to trigger the start of menstruation. 5 Menstrual migraines could occur due to the drop of estrogen and the release of prostaglandins in the first two days of a woman’s period. 4 Levels of prostaglandins are highest during menstruation, and tend to be especially high in women who have heavy or painful periods. 3
To determine if you have menstrual migraines, get out your migraine diary, and start keeping track of where you are in your menstrual cycle when you experience migraines.
Managing Your Menstrual Migraines
There’s no need to continue suffering from head pain due to hormones. Common migraine treatments, such as the application of an ice pack, practicing relaxation exercises, and taking OTC pain relievers, can help relieve menstrual migraines. Please see your doctor if you believe that you may be suffering from menstrual migraines.
1. MacGregor, E. Anne. "Menstrual Migraine: Therapeutic Approaches." Therapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders. SAGE Publications, Sept. 2009. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3002599/.
2. "What Is a Menstrual Migraine?" Excedrin. N.p., n.d. Web. https://www.excedrin.com/migraines/causes/what-is-a-menstrual-migraine/.
3. "Menstrual Migraine." National Migraine Centre. N.p., n.d. Web. http://www.nationalmigrainecentre.org.uk/migraine-and-headaches/migraine-and-headache-factsheets/menstrual-migraine/.
4. "Menstrual Migraine - The Migraine Trust." The Migraine Trust. N.p., n.d. Web. https://www.migrainetrust.org/about-migraine/types-of-migraine/menstrual-migraine/.
5. "Migraines, Headaches, and Hormones." WebMD. Ed. Neil Lava. N.p., 14 July 2016. Web. http://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/guide/hormones-headaches.