If the dreaded “time of the month” has you reaching for the pill bottle, you could be suffering from menstrual or hormone headaches. These headaches are quite common. At the National Headache Institute we have extensive experience in dealing with different types of headaches affecting women at different times during their monthly menstrual cycle.
Headaches can be caused by all kinds of things from genetics to diet, weather, tension and more. One headache trigger that is more often experienced by women is changes in hormonal levels. The hormone level changes, particularly of estrogen, that occur during menstruation, pregnancy and menopause can throw off the chemicals in the brain that affect our experience and sensation of pain. In addition, the use of hormone replacement therapies and oral contraceptives can have similar affects. The good news is there are effective ways of controlling the role that hormonal level changes play in producing headaches.
What Causes Hormonal Headaches?
There are many triggers that can cause a headache for both women and formen. Regular or particularly bad headaches or migraines can be attributed to family history or age for example. However, women often notice there is a definite connection between hormonal changes and their headaches.
Menstrual headaches are often down to an imbalance of hormones, namely estrogen and progesterone. These two hormones play a major part in regulating the menstrual cycle and can also affect the chemicals in the brain that are related to headaches. While steady estrogen levels can reduce the onset of headaches,a lower level can make headaches worse. The good news is that we understand these fluctuating hormones and can help you to treat and, more importantly,prevent these headaches.
How Do Hormone Levels Changes Cause Headaches?
Two hormones, estrogen and progesterone, play an important part in regulating and controlling the menstrual cycle and have a role in pregnancy. These hormones are believed to affect chemicals in the brain that are related to headaches. When these two hormones are at steady levels in the body, the chance of them causing a headache lowers. While low estrogen levels can make headaches more likely, it is really dramatic changes in hormonal levels that are most likely to trigger headaches. Things that can change hormonal levels include:
- The Menstrual Cycle: During menstruation, estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest.
- Pregnancy: Estrogen levels rise during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. Those same levels drop rapidly after childbirth. Interestingly, many woman who suffer from menstruation related hormonal headaches, find relief from them during pregnancy.
- Menopause and Perimenopause: Hormonal headaches are more likely during perimenopause, the years leading up to menopause, and many who suffer from them find that they decrease in frequency after menopause is reached.
- Hormone Replacement and Contraceptives: Both can cause significant changes, both rises and drops, in hormone levels.
Can Hormonal Headaches Be Prevented?
This is a question we are asked a lot and the answer is different for different people. In many cases we have helped our patients to eliminate menstrual and hormonal headaches completely from their lives. The key lies in maintaining the body’s hormone levels and making a few life changes around that time of the month. When we devise a treatment plan we often look at different factors such as:
- A patient’s age
- The other symptoms accompanying the headache
- The severity of the headache
- Any treatment or preventative measures that are currently being used
- Family history – menstrual migraine can often be genetic
Because menstrual headaches and migraine are caused by a drop in hormone levels it makes sense to address this first. By taking birth control pills, for example, you can balance your hormones and ease the headaches. Diet and exercise can also affect the impact of menstrual headaches. Our team can give you plenty of practical advice on the natural things you can do to help ease headaches and migraine during your period.
There are also traditional headache treatments that can also aide in relieving hormonal headaches, like:
- Staying hydrated
- Placing a cold towel or bag of ice on the head
- Relaxation and breathing exercises
- Laying down in a dark and quiet room
How To Treat Hormonal Migraine and Headaches
A menstrual headache is really no different in nature to a normal headache. It just seems more intense as it is usually accompanied by abdominal cramps, mood swings and all of the other annoying “time of the month” symptoms. Ibuprofen is very effective at easing headache pain and you may also get relief from massage and resting in a dark and quiet room.
When you come to the National Headache Institute for hormonal headache relief we will get to the source of the cause of your headaches. Sometimes there may be other ways to approach your treatment, in particular by controlling hormone levels in the body. For instance, women undergoing estrogen replacement treatments may benefit from having their dosage administered through a patch which delivers a low and steady dose, thus avoiding the hormonal spikes that can be brought on by estrogen pills. Another example is eliminating the hormonal level change that occurs during the placebo week of an oral contraception cycle. Replacing the placebos with low dose estrogen pills reduces this fluctuation in hormonal levels.
At the National Headache Institute, we offer a wealth of advice and assistance when it comes to managing menstrual headaches. Speak to us today and we will devise the right treatment plan for you. Call our specialist consultation team today or use our contact form to book a consultation about menstrual headaches.