Menstrual migraines, also known as hormone headaches, typically occur either right before or during a female’s period. Oftentimes, these headaches occur every month. The symptoms include light sensitivity, fatigue, and dizziness. Women report headaches as dull and throbbing or severe and pulsing. 

Migraines are much more than bad headaches. Migraine headaches are a neurologic disease that causes a number of symptoms, including debilitating pain on one side of the head. The pain may be described as pulsing or throbbing. 

Hormone Headaches Menstrual Migraines

Hormone headaches occur right before or during a female’s period. Typically, you experience headaches before a period, or you can experience headaches during periods. On average the headaches occur two days before menstruation or three days at the beginning of your period. Light, movement, sounds, and scents can worsen the migraine symptoms. Symptoms may occur for only a few hours, or they can last for several days.

Understanding Hormones 

The body uses hormones to deliver messages throughout the body. Hormones are found in your organs, bloodstream, and tissues in the body. The thyroid gland, pituitary gland, adrenal glands, and sex organs produce hormones. When the body produces too much or too little of a hormone, it can throw the entire body off balance. 

The two main sex hormones in females are estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen is used to develop female characteristics and aids in the reproduction process. Furthermore, it controls your menstrual cycle, helps regulate cholesterol levels, protects bone health, and affects many other tissues and organs in the body, including the heart, bones, brain, skin, and more.

Estrogen levels change throughout the menstrual cycle. The levels are the highest during the middle part of your cycle and the lowest at the beginning of your period. Furthermore, during menopause, your estrogen levels drop extremely low.

Headaches and Hormones

Menstrual migraines are related to hormone imbalances. When your estrogen and progesterone levels drop at the beginning of your menstrual cycle, a headache may occur. This is why these headaches are often referred to as hormonal migraines. Other types of migraine headaches are triggered by caffeine, stress, or missing a meal.

What Triggers Migraines in Women?

Along with changes in your estrogen levels due to the menstrual cycle, hormone headaches can be caused by hormone replacement therapy and birth control pills. If you begin taking hormones or birth control pills and notice an increase in the frequency or severity of your migraines, talk with your healthcare provider.

What Are the Symptoms of Menstrual Migraines?

Menstrual migraines have symptoms similar to other types of migraine headaches. The most common symptoms include:

  • Abdominal Pain
  • Blurred Vision Symptoms of Menstrual Migraine
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Nausea
  • Pain – The pain can range from a dull ache to a severe throb
  • Pale Skin
  • Temperature Deregulation – You may experience excess sweating or chills during a hormone migraine.
  • Sensitivity to Lights, Noises, and Scents
  • Scalp Tenderness
  • Upset Stomach
  • Vomiting

Diagnosing Menstrual Migraines

Getting a proper diagnosis requires seeking out the assistance of a functional woman’s healthcare doctor. Your doctor will want to discuss the severity and location of your headaches. Discuss the frequency of your headaches, any medications that you have taken to try to get the relief, and the results from the medications. 

Your doctor will also want to know if you have a family history of migraine headaches. Your doctor will want to talk about your stress, activities, and foods that may have brought on a migraine headache. Once a complete health history is done, your doctor may order a variety of blood and imaging tests to rule out any other issues that may be causing your headaches. 

Most functional medicine doctors recommend keeping a headache journal. You will be requested to list the symptoms you are experiencing, how long the symptoms last, and anything that makes your symptoms better or worse. This information can be used to help identify your migraine triggers and may help your provider choose the best treatment for menstrual migraines.

Treatment for Menstrual Migraines

The fluctuations and decrease in estrogen levels right before a woman’s period can increase the risk of hormone migraines. There are many different methods that can be used to relieve the symptoms of a menstrual headache. Acupuncture to Relieve Headaches

  • Acupuncture – Traditional Chinese Medicine has used acupuncture to relieve headaches for thousands of years. Acupuncture uses very fine needles to relieve tension, release pent-up emotions, free meridian pathways, and improve hormone production.
  • Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy – Menstruation migraines occur when estrogen levels drop rapidly. You can reduce these sharp declines with bioidentical hormone therapy. This treatment is especially beneficial for women entering into perimenopause when their periods are irregular, and their estrogen levels drop quickly. 
  • Diet – There are several foods that can trigger migraines. Learning your food triggers and avoiding them can help relieve your migraines. Remove foods containing nitrates like bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and deli meat, chocolate, cheeses like blue, Swiss, Parmesan, cheddar, and feta cheeses. Remove processed foods, cultured dairy products, beans, and foods that contain MSG to help prevent headaches.
  • Essential Oils – Applying essential oils topically can help relieve headache pain. Some of the top essential oils to relieve migraines are lavender oil and peppermint oil. 
  • Herbs – There are a number of herbal remedies that can help relieve menstrual headaches. Some of the top herbs to relieve your headache pain include feverfew, ginger, and butterbur.
  • Hydration – Approximately one-third of women suffering from menstrual headaches are dehydrated. Preventing dehydration can help reduce or eliminate hormone headaches. We recommend drinking one ounce of water for every two pounds you weigh to ensure you remain hydrated.
  • Magnesium – Migraines have been linked to magnesium deficiencies. When taken daily, magnesium may help prevent menstrual headaches from occurring.  Stress Relief Exercises
  • Massage – Massage is a hands-on therapy technique that not only relieves stiff, tired muscles but also helps open up and flush out the lymphatic system. Massage has been shown to improve hormone production and regulation, relieve migraine headaches, and reduce stress naturally.
  • Sleep – During sleep, your body produces many of the hormones that it needs for optimal health. When you do not get the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep, the risk of headaches increases. Follow good sleep hygiene to reduce the risk of hormone headaches. 
  • Stress Relief ExercisesStress relief techniques like yoga, deep breathing exercises, and meditation can help reduce stress, improve hormone production, and relieve or prevent hormone migraines. 

The symptoms of menstrual migraines are challenging. When symptoms are severe, they can interfere with your day-to-day life. Luckily, there are several ways to get relief and prevent hormone headaches. Speaking to one of our women’s integrative medicine doctors can help you identify your migraine triggers and develop an effective treatment plan to relieve the symptoms of hormone headaches.