Migraines during the Period
Many factors contribute to headaches in both men and women, including family history and age. However, women often notice a relationship between headaches and hormonal changes.
To have a headache is one of the most typical symptoms when the period comes or during the premenstrual phase and one of the most annoying ones. For many women, headaches are also accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light, all characteristic signs of migraines.
In today's article, we are going to talk about these headaches and explain what types there are, how the menstrual cycle affects all this and how to treat them.
Types of headaches and the menstrual cycle
There are many types and causes of headache, but only two are proven to be related to the menstrual cycle.
Tension headaches. This is a very common type of headache. Frequently, these headaches are felt on both sides of the head and are characterized by a feeling of compression or slight or moderate tension. Some women always experience these headaches when they are in the menstruation phase.
Migraine. Migraine is a disorder with characteristic headaches that can be debilitating. Migraines are usually quite strong and manifest as a stabbing pain that usually feels on one side of the head. Migraines may have additional side effects that include feeling nauseous, vomiting, the increased intensity with normal activity and sensitivity to light and sound. Some people who suffer from migraines may experience an aura of symptoms, such as visual or sensory symptoms, that occur before or during an episode, which may warn that a headache is coming. Migraines can last up to three days.
It is estimated that 60% of women suffering from migraines associate these with menstruation. Estrogen levels fall during the period, usually, a couple of days before and remain diminished until one day after the onset of the menstrual period, so the hormonal effect directly affects the appearance of these headaches just as the period comes.
Natural treatments and lifestyle changes to relieve menstrual migraines
Magnesium: There is evidence that magnesium can relieve the pain caused by migraine. In a small experimental test, participants took magnesium supplements three times a day, starting on Day 15 of their cycle, until the beginning of their next period. This treatment helped reduce the total pain of the participants and also improved their premenstrual symptoms. Magnesium can be found in supplement capsules. If you want to know more you can read this article that we published talking about supplements in more detail.
Get enough sleep: Since fatigue and sleep disorders are triggers of headaches and migraines, make sure you adjust your sleep schedules so you can relax and rest well. If you usually have headaches in the morning after waking up, it may be a good idea to have you check for sleep apnea.
Reduce your stress levels: Stress is related to the appearance of migraines and headaches. For this reason, stress management techniques such as relaxation therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and biofeedback can help. It is easier said than done, but try to prioritize reducing your stress levels and spend half an hour giving yourself a good shower or bathtub or putting on that facial mask that you never have time. You can look at the relaxation ritual that we propose here.
Avoid extreme climates: Climate changes, both cold and hot, can cause migraines and headaches. Check the weather forecast and plan ahead. Take care of extreme heat and sun exposure, as fatigue and dehydration can also cause headaches.
Find a dark and silent place: Light and sound can aggravate migraine symptoms for people who are experiencing an episode. Some people find relief when lying in dark and quiet places.
Treatments prescribed by a doctor
Pain relievers: There are also medications to treat migraines or very severe and prolonged headaches such as triptans (medicines that block pain signals in the brain), NSAIDs with tryptans or other prescription pain relievers such as dihydroergotamine (DHE 45 ). But all this should always be consulted with a doctor and prescribed by him/her since an expert has to evaluate the intensity and severity of migraines to decide what type of analgesic to administer to reduce pain and symptoms.
Hormonal contraceptives: For some people, hormonal contraceptives can help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines related to menstruation by minimizing the decrease in estrogen associated with the menstrual cycle. But there are also women who have migraines for the first time when using hormonal contraceptives, so it is important to talk to your doctor since each woman is different and medical history is needed to recommend or not a treatment of this type.
Preventive treatment: If you have several debilitating headaches a month, your doctor may recommend a preventive treatment with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or triptans. If your menstrual cycle is regular, it may be more effective to start taking preventive headache medications a few days before your period and continue for two weeks after the beginning of your period. If you have migraines during your menstrual cycle or have irregular periods, your doctor may recommend that you take preventive medications every day.
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