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Menstrual Migraine: Periods, hormones, and headaches

Both men and women may be struck with hormone headaches. But women and people who menstruate may suffer from a very specific type of hormone-related headache. This particular kind of headache is known as menstrual migraine, and those who experience them often note how particularly intense they are.

Woman lying on sofa

More than half of women who suffer from migraine attacks notice a link with their periods. But what may be causing this link?

What causes menstrual migraine?

Many associate menstrual migraine with falling levels of oestrogen. Although there is no specific connection, changes to the chemicals travelling around the body and to the brain can cause disruption. The body responds to this disruption with headaches.

Is it different from other types of migraine?

Menstrual migraine usually involves recurring headaches. However, women frequently note that they are more intense than attacks they suffer at other times of the month. Indeed, they tend to last longer and are often particularly unresponsive to treatment.

How can I treat menstrual migraine?

Menstruation can be unpleasant in and of itself, bringing stomach cramps, tiredness, and mood swings – just to name a few. For many, the idea of having to contend with a migraine attack on top of all this is simply too much. Fortunately, there are medications you can take which help to control your symptoms.

  • If your periods are regular, your doctor may suggest you take medication around 2 days before the start of menstruation. These medications may include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
  • If your periods are irregular or you need contraception, there are contraceptives available which may help to manage your migraine.
  • Hormone supplements can increase the levels of oestrogen in your body before and during your period. Many women note that this helps their migraine and can be taken in the form of skin patches or gel.
Sources

The Migraine Trust

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