Headaches and menstruation: how can migraines be relieved?

Among the many symptoms that can occur during or a few days before menstrual flow is the notorious headache, also known as catamenial migraine. It can be a real handicap in everyday life. Fortunately, there are solutions.

What is a menstrual headache?

Period headaches are also known as catamenial migraines or menstrual migraines. These are migraine attacks directly linked to the female cycle and hormones. Headaches are one of the symptoms of menstruation or premenstrual syndrome.

Many women suffer from these migraines and dread their arrival, as they can become a real handicap in everyday life.
The particularity of catamenial headaches is that they are not accompanied by an aura - i.e. they are not accompanied by neurological signs such as visual, sensory or language disorders. On the other hand, this type of migraine can take longer. An estimated 20% of women suffer from a type of migraine linked to their menstruation, such as menstrual migraine. But for women already suffering from classic migraines, the figure is 60%. Migraines also increase with the onset of menopause, which is accompanied by a number of hormonal changes, again increasing the risk.

What causes headaches during menstruation?

Hormonal fluctuations are the cause of headaches during menstruation, or in the days leading up to it. In fact, endogenous estradiol levels drop drastically, reaching a minimum on the first day of the period, sometimes even 5 days before. This would appear to be the number 1 factor contributing to the onset of headaches. Whether progesterone is involved in menstrual migraine attacks remains a matter of debate. Certain contraceptives, notably the pill, can cause side effects such as headaches. An illness with the same symptoms and fever (flu or other) can obviously accentuate these symptoms if it occurs at the same time.

What are the symptoms of a menstrual migraine?

Menstrual headaches are characterized by pulsating pain on the side of the head, which can be aggravated by a number of factors, such as physical activity. The pain is sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting, as well as heightened sensitivity to light and noise.
These catamenial migraines are therefore recurrent and often more prolonged and intense than migraines occurring outside the menstrual period.

Our tips for treating and relieving headaches!

Fortunately, headaches are not inevitable, and there are solutions to alleviate the pain and help you get through this time of the month. Some doctors will prescribe contraceptive pills to try and stabilize hormones throughout the month. But you need to be careful, as some pills can have the opposite effect, accentuating the pain. Headaches are all the more frequent during the menopause. Taking estrogen can help alleviate headaches and other symptoms typical of this period in a woman's life.

Rest to reduce stress

Stress is an aggravating factor in headaches. So it's essential to relax well (especially during this period of major hormonal fluctuation, when other symptoms also arise). Sports and practices such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture or hypnosis can help. It's up to you to test which solution suits you best, to find the most effective and appropriate remedy!
A good night's sleep is also necessary to alleviate migraines. Both fatigue and stress tend to accentuate or trigger headaches during menstruation.

Stay well hydrated throughout the day

If you had to remember just one piece of advice, it would be this: drinking plenty of water helps limit and prevent headaches. So it's vital to keep your body hydrated, especially during this period, even before the onset of menstrual flow.

Limit consumption of certain foods

As with the digestive problems that can occur during PMS, it's important to be careful about what you eat during this period. We therefore advise you to:
Limit youralcohol consumption, as you know that alcohol is responsible for dehydration
Watch your coffee consumption: drink in moderation, as caffeine is known to reduce pain, but also to be a source of dehydration
Prefer fresh foods such as fruit and vegetables

Relieving migraines with the help of cold

If you're prone to a migraine attack, a simple and effective solution is cold. You can place a damp, cold towel on your forehead and temples, or opt for an ice pack wrapped in a cloth to make the chill last.
For even more effective results, you can stand in the dark, in a quiet place with your cold pack. Relax and take a moment for yourself!

Infusions and essential oils

The benefits of plants are manifold! Certain herbal infusions can help to alleviate headache pain! Just make sure you have no medical contraindications.

For example, you can try chamomile infusion and rosemary infusion. Both are recognized for their beneficial effects on cranial pain.
Some plants also work very well in essential oils, such as peppermint, which can be massaged into the temples. Simply take a drop undiluted and massage in, taking care not to put it too close to the eyes or ears. If migraines persist, peppermint essential oil combined with wintergreen can be considered. This essential oil is renowned for its pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, rubefacient and antispasmodic properties! Very useful during PMS.

Caution: essential oils, although natural, must be used under medical advice, as they present contraindications in certain cases.

What to do if the headaches persist?

If, despite this advice, the headaches persist, it's essential to consultyour doctor or gynaecologist. It's not normal to be in such pain that it disrupts your day-to-day life, wherever you may be, and you should persevere until you find a solution or treatment to help you get through this time of the month.

FAQs on menstrual headaches

Do periods give me a headache?

It's common to have a headache when you're on your period, or just a few days before. Of course, symptoms vary from person to person. It's the fluctuating hormones that cause headaches.

Which hormone causes headaches during menstruation?

The hormone in question isestrogen, which drops in the second half of the cycle, as the menstrual flow approaches.

How can a menstrual migraine be relieved?

There are, of course, ways to alleviate menstrual migraines, including natural solutions such as essential oils, drinking plenty ofwater, etc... or, if the discomfort is too intense, a GP or healthcare professional can prescribe hormonal contraception to regulate hormone levels, or treatment with drugs to reduce pain.

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