Changes in estrogen levels may cause hormonal migraines. Estrogen levels can change dramatically during pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause. These lifetime events often see an increase in migraine activity. Estrogen therapy, magnesium supplements, and lifestyle changes can help reduce your pain days. You should keep track of your migraines to understand any patterns and triggers.
Fluctuations in estrogen levels may cause hormonal migraines. Estrogen therapy can help reduce the number of pain days in a month.
Menstrual cycle, menopause, and pregnancy alter estrogen levels. They can trigger a hormonal migraine.
You can prevent your hormonal migraines with the SEEDS technique.
What is a migraine?
A migraine is a debilitating neurological disease. People with migraines may experience one-sided throbbing head pain. Those with episodic migraines have less than 15 painful days in a month. Chronic migraines occur at least 15 times in the same month.
Before puberty, migraine rates are similar in boys and girls. But those rates change after puberty. After puberty, migraines affect more women than men. There may be a link between the appearance of migraines and hormonal changes in women.
A person may be more likely to experience migraines when certain hormones fluctuate. A hormonal migraine is a migraine triggered by fluctuating hormones.
Hormonal migraines can be triggered by:
- Pregnancy and postpartum
These life events can cause changes in estrogen levels. When estrogen levels change, you’re at risk of developing a hormonal migraine.
How common are hormonal migraines?
Migraines are one of the most common types of neurological disorders. Migraines affect over one billion people worldwide every year. Women are three times more likely to have migraines than men.
Hormonal migraines may account for the difference in migraine rates between women and men. More than half of women with migraines consider their periods a trigger. These women notice a predictable pattern of migraine activity centered around their periods.
What are the symptoms of hormonal migraines?
A migraine is more than debilitating head pain. This life-changing neurological disease can affect your entire body. Your headache may last from four to 72 hours. You may notice a day or two of fatigue after the pain subsides.
Your migraines may cause:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sensitivity to noise, smell, or light
- Nasal congestion
- Neck stiffness and pain
- Alterations in mood and cognition
If hormonal migraines are triggered by your menstrual cycle, they're called menstrual migraines. A menstrual migraine usually happens between the two days before your period and the third day of your period. Menstrual migraines can be longer and more intense than other types of migraines. You may notice a higher level of pain and a more significant sensitivity to light.
How do you treat and prevent a hormonal migraine?
Individuals with hormonal migraines have several treatment options. Your doctor may recommend abortive or preventive treatment. Lifestyle changes can also increase your number of pain-free days.
Prompt treatment of a migraine is a way to prevent future migraines. If you leave your migraines untreated, you are more likely to develop them in the future. When you treat your migraine, you break that pain pattern.
Abortive treatment for hormonal migraines
A person takes an abortive treatment to stop a migraine that has already started. These are most effective if you take them at the first sign of pain. Abortive treatment is best suited for individuals who have occasional episodic migraines.
Your doctor may recommend an oral medication, like sumatriptan. Sometimes, NSAIDS, like ibuprofen, may work. Your doctor may recommend an injectable medication if oral medications are ineffective.
Migraines can alter the ability to digest oral pills. An injectable bypasses this body system to provide relief within minutes. This route also works if you’re experiencing nausea or vomiting during your migraine.
If your migraines are predictable or chronic, your doctor may recommend a preventative plan. A preventative medication is one that you take before the onset of your migraine. This treatment helps prevent the migraine from starting.
Your doctor may recommend magnesium supplements to prevent menstrual migraines. Magnesium can help block the pain-transmitting chemicals that can trigger a migraine. Your doctor can establish a dosing schedule that works for you. Make sure you consult your healthcare team before taking any new supplements.
Magnesium may be effective at preventing migraines if taken on the 15th day of your menstrual cycle. You don’t need a regular cycle to start this treatment option. The 15th day of your cycle is counted from the start of your last period.
Your doctor may recommend estrogen therapy to prevent hormonal migraines. Estrogen supplementation can stabilize estrogen levels during your menstrual cycle. Consult your doctor for details on what form and dose of estrogen you can introduce.
Your doctor may prescribe a pill, vaginal gel, vaginal ring, or patch to deliver your estrogen. Taking estrogen during your menstrual cycle can prevent migraines by keeping your levels steady.
Estrogen therapy works best when it’s continuous. When taking birth control, most people take estrogen pills for 21 days. Then, they take a placebo pill for seven days to start their period. The placebo week is when a person is most likely to get a migraine. Your doctor may recommend continuous estrogen therapy to address this concern.
You can reduce your pain days by implementing lifestyle changes. Multiple triggers can increase the chances of experiencing a migraine. If you can stick to a routine most days, you may notice a dramatic reduction in your migraines. SEEDS is a mnemonic you can use to remember the lifestyle changes that have the biggest impact on migraines. SEEDS stands for sleep, exercise, eat, diary, and stress.
You should keep the same sleep schedule every night, including weekends. You should be going to sleep and waking at the same time. Try to sleep for the same number of hours each night. Aim to sleep around seven hours. If you want to sleep in, try not to sleep in later than eight hours.
Exercise within your comfort level and pace yourself. You should aim for 30–50 minutes of moderate cardiovascular activity 3–5 days a week. Elevating your heart rate can reduce your painful migraine attacks. Research indicates regular exercise can help prevent migraines.
Swings in your blood sugar may cause migraines. Fasting may increase your risk of developing migraines. If you can eat regular meals throughout the day, you can help stabilize your blood sugar levels. You should aim to drink at least eight glasses of water daily.
You should keep a record of your migraines. A headache diary helps to understand your unique migraine pattern. It also helps identify any notable triggers. A headache diary tracks your painful days. You can use a calendar or an app such as the Migraine Buddy for tracking.
Stress can be a significant trigger for many people. You can reduce this risk by implementing stress-reduction techniques. Mindfulness, medication, and breathing techniques can reduce stress levels. You should build these practices throughout the day.
Fluctuating hormones cause hormonal migraines. It's not uncommon for them to come and go throughout your life. Several medications and lifestyle changes can help reduce your painful days.
- Journal of Headache Pain. The association between migraine and physical exercise.
- Cells. Role of Estrogen in Menstrual Migraines.
- Therapy of Advances Neurological Disorders. Menstrual Migraine: Therapeutic Approaches.