Migraines are excruciating headaches that can make the simplest tasks impossible. Getting out of bed in the morning with a migraine can seem like a futile exercise, let alone actually going to work. The pain can be a pounding sensation, like a hammer in the head or sharp and shooting, like being stabbed with a needle or a knife.  

Menstrual migraines are a type of headache that can occur around a woman’s menstrual period. In fact, 50 percent of women experience this phenomenon. Menstrual migraines tend to be more severe than typical migraines. They are triggered by the hormonal changes that occur before the start of a woman’s period. 


What Are Menstrual Migraines? 

To understand menstrual migraines and how to treat them, it’s important to understand what hormones are involved and what changes take place just before menses, the start of the period. 

Progesterone is a steroid hormone that is responsible for preventing the uterus from shedding its lining in the event of pregnancy. When these levels drop, the period begins.

Estrogen is a steroid hormone that affects the sensation of pain in the brain as well as regulating the menstrual cycle in unison with progesterone. As these two hormones increase and decrease, many women who are sensitive to these changes experience migraines.  

Menstrual Headache Treatment 

The key to menstrual migraine treatment is timing. When the headaches occur in relation to the menstrual cycle, it can indicate what hormonal changes are the triggers.  

  • If a migraine occurs before the onset of a period, the trigger could be the drop in progesterone levels. 
  • If a migraine occurs during ovulation, the trigger could be the peak of the estrogen levels. 
  • If a menstrual headache occurs during the period (active bleeding stage), the trigger is most likely the drop in both estrogen and progesterone.  

Medications are often the most effective course of treatment. Triptans, medications that constrict the blood vessels, are the first line of defense for any type of migraine. NSAIDs like ibuprofen can also be effective. But these medications are most effective when taken at the right time during a cycle, like a few days before a period if your migraines occur just before your period starts.  

Birth control can also be effective in preventing these migraines as it maintains estrogen at constant levels to prevent pregnancy. At National Headache Institute, we identify the source and go beyond the scope of just attributing headaches to a hormonal cause. We take pride on starting where others stop.


If you have migraines associated with your menstrual cycle, contact the National Headache Institute today to schedule an appointment and get the treatment you need. We have several locations for your convenience.