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Hormone headaches (menstrual migraines)

Hormones are responsible for many headaches women experience, sometimes called 'menstrual migraines'.

How are hormones and headaches linked?

Headaches in women, particularly migraines, have been related to changes in the levels of the female hormone oestrogen during a woman's menstrual cycle. Oestrogen levels drop before the start of monthly bleeding.

Premenstrual migraines can happen when the hormones oestrogen and progesterone drop to their lowest levels each month. Experts believe it is the falling levels rather than the levels being low that trigger headaches.

Migraine attacks linked to hormones often disappear during pregnancy.

However, migraines may start during the first trimester of pregnancy.

What else triggers hormonal migraines in women?

As well as normal monthly hormone changes, headaches may be triggered by:



Over-the-counter painkillers may help relieve menstrual migraine.

Doctors may recommend taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) painkillers like ibuprofen 2-3 days before the period to help prevent migraines and stopping the treatment at the end of the period.

Self-help tips for hormone headaches include:

  • Keeping blood sugar levels stable by having regular small snacks and not skipping meals
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Avoiding stress.

Seek medical advice if hormone headaches are not relieved with these steps.

A doctor may ask for a diary to be kept of when headaches happened in relation to periods.

Make sure doctors or pharmacists know if you may be pregnant, as this can affect medication options.

Additional treatments options will depend on individual circumstances, and may include:


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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on October 10, 2016

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