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Everything You Need to Know About Menstrual Migraines

Updated on Jul 7, 2021 by Dr. Amr Hosny (Headache Specialist) of Advanced Headache Center

Suffering from migraine headaches along with period cramps can be the worst thing as it brings life to stand still for a few days, disrupting your routine. Do not waste any time consulting top-rated pain management doctors experienced in diagnosing and treating headaches if your symptoms persist and cause debilitating pain. The expert headache doctors at the Advanced Headache Center work out the best approach for preventing your menstrual migraine and recommend positive solutions to improve your quality of life.

Also known as period headache, a menstrual migraine may occur before and during a period. These headaches can be severe and interfere with daily routine. This headache is triggered by menstruation in people with the condition. Suffering from menstrual migraines is no fun as they render you helpless. The attacks are often more severe, lengthier, and cause greater sensitivity to light and sound than attacks occurring at other times of the month.

Periods and Menstrual Migraines – How They Affect Women?

A migraine is more than a bad headache. It is a neurological disorder with a series of symptoms that includes debilitating pain on one side of the head. Menstrual migraines occur right before or during a woman’s period and intensify with movement, light, or sound. The symptoms can last from a few hours to days, making proper diagnosis and treatment essential.

During a menstrual cycle, a female body’s hormones rise and fall in preparation for pregnancy.
Estrogen and progesterone are the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle. The levels of these hormones affect the severity and prevalence of headaches. Research has shown that acute migraine headaches occur when the level of estrogen in the body drops significantly.

Menstrual migraines can be challenging to treat as some medications that alleviate regular migraine symptoms do not work for menstrual migraines. Get the most targeted and personalized treatment plan from expert headache doctors who will work out an interventional and multidisciplinary approach to relieve your pain.

Menstrual Migraines Symptoms

The symptoms of menstrual migraine are similar to any other migraine headache. Luckily, the headaches that occur closer to a period are not accompanied by sensory disturbances. Only a few women have reported auras such as flashing lights or blinding spots in the field of vision or tingling sensation in the hands or face before the migraine begins.

Other symptoms of a menstrual migraine can include:

  • Sensitivity to bright lights
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Throbbing, stabbing or pounding pain on one side of the head
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pain that ranges from dull to a severe throb
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tender scalp

Menstrual migraines can be painful and disruptive, especially if you are already experiencing other pre-menstrual symptoms such as:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Joint pain or muscle soreness
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Food cravings
  • Mood changes

Keep an eye on your symptoms as several triggers can cause menstrual migraines. You will have to work with a headache specialist to know more about these headaches and how they can be treated.

Causes of Menstrual Headaches

A change in estrogen levels that happens right before your period begins is believed to be the major cause of menstrual headaches. Hormones regulate many of the body’s functions, and a shift in hormone levels can trigger a hormonal headache and menstrual migraine. If you experience headaches around your periods, the pain may stem from PMS or menstrual migraine.

Mostly, a menstrual migraine headache occurs before, during, or immediately after a period, but it can also occur during ovulation. In some cases, menstruation is a trigger for these headaches. The doctor will establish a history of your migraine-related symptoms to know more about the type of headache you are suffering from.

Menstrual Migraines Treatment

Talking to an expert headache doctor is the best way to learn more about the possible treatment of menstrual migraines. Women experience different symptoms based on the causes of their headaches. With proper consultation and diagnosis, an experienced physician will direct you in the best way to seek relief.

Treatment for menstrual migraines begins with non-prescription medications and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories in particular. If basic over-the-counter medications cannot alleviate the pain, the doctor may suggest extra-strength medications or prescription medication provide comfort.

The doctor might recommend a combination of medications to ease the pain. They include:

  • Over-the-counter medicines
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen
  • Anticonvulsants like valproate
  • Beta-blocker like propranolol
  • Calcium channel blockers verapamil
  • Anti-depressants
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) like Triptans for acute migraines such as sumatriptan, rizatriptan, zolmitriptan, almotriptan, or eletriptan

Other medications to manage the headaches include:

  • Estrogen patch, gel, or pills
  • Contraceptives, which may reduce the number of menstrual migraines
  • Dihydroergotamines (DHE)
  • Caffeine
  • Analgesics
  • Corticosteroids

These medications should be started two to three days before the period starts and should be taken throughout the menstrual flow to manage the symptoms and reduce the severity of pain. Sometimes when medications do not provide desired results, the doctor suggests hormone therapy to alleviate the pain.

Women using birth control are recommended to begin using any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine treatment after the nineteenth day of their period and stop on the second day of their next cycle. Menstrual migraines last for a limited time, which reduces the risk of medication overuse, rebound headaches, or gastrointestinal complaints.

Menstrual Migraines Management

Menstrual migraine is one of the several types of migraines women experience. The pain expert doctor will determine the causes and triggers of your period headache, assess your physical health, medical history, and the types of symptoms you suffer from, relying on the most advanced diagnostic equipment. There are no tests to confirm the diagnosis, but the doctor may suggest blood and imaging tests to rule out the possibility of other underlying medical conditions.

Keeping a diary of your headaches is necessary. It should include when they occur about the menstrual cycle, their severity, and their response to any medication you use to help the pain expert doctor propose the best way to manage the symptoms.

Inform your doctor if you are using oral contraceptives as hormonal birth control can affect women with migraines differently and increases the risk of stroke, heart disease, or blood clots. Also, tell your pain management doctor if you have migraines with aura when discussing symptoms and treatment options.
It will help the experienced physician come up with the best treatment plans that provide effective relief.

If the period headache pain continues to worsen every month and disturbs your routine, seek help from highly qualified and trained headache specialists to figure out how to manage this condition. The expert doctors at the Advanced Headache Center come up with the most comprehensive and unique combination of treatment options that offer positive solutions to improve your life. They will also continue to monitor your symptoms and make changes to the treatment plan as needed.

Dr. Amr Hosny has either authored or reviewed and approved this content. Advanced Headache Center 41 5th Avenue,
New York, NY 10003
(646) 419-3105