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Menstrual Migraine, or Hormone-associated Headaches

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A woman’s menstrual cycle closely relates to hormonal changes taking place in her body at the same time. Unfortunately, the act of the body shedding uterine tissue can be uncomfortable, causing cramping. The hormonal changes can cause menstrual migraines, or hormone-associated headaches too. According to the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, an estimated 12.6 million women in the US suffer from hormonally induced severe headaches before or during their periods.

Menstrual migraine or hormone-associated migraine affects up to 60 percent of all women who have migraines.

What are menstrual migraines, or hormone-associated headaches?

The hormones estrogen and progesterone regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle. They are also closely associated with mood. Hormone levels that drop or rise suddenly during a cycle can trigger headaches in some women. Women who have levels of estrogen that stay regular seem to have less headaches associated with this.

For most women, hormone levels drop just before a period. This is also when many women report getting menstrual migraines.

Diagnosis of Menstrual Migraine

Doctors will look at how often and when a woman’s headaches occur and how long they last. A doctor will ask questions such as where in the head the pain is located and what its “qualities” are. For example, if it is pulsating or affected by activity. Menstrual migraines are also commonly associated with nausea or sensitivity to light.

Treatment of Menstrual Migraine

Migraines can be difficult to treat because the pain does not always respond to treatments the way that non-migraine headaches do. A combination of over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers is the first thing to try. Supplemental estrogen is a possibility in a migraine condition that is causing estrogen-associated headaches.

For some women, applying ice might work. Your doctor might talk with you about exploring some relaxation techniques, acupuncture or biofeedback techniques. Stopping a migraine before it starts is usually the best approach. Your doctor might talk with you about daily medication that can keep your hormone level regular throughout your cycle.

The doctors at Pacific Women’s Center are experienced in all aspects of a woman’s cycle, including how hormones may affect things in the body other than menstruation and pregnancy. Get in touch with us if you’re experiencing menstrual migraines or estrogen-associated headaches and aren’t sure what your options are.