Most headaches that affect women are caused by hormones. According to official estimates, at least 5 million women suffer from headaches related to hormonal changes every month.
More than half of women who suffer from migraines report an "association with the menstrual cycle. Typically, the headache occurs two days before the period, or in the first three days of the menstrual phase, following the natural drop in the level of menstruation. estrogen that occurs during this period. It is the so-called menstrual migraine which usually recurs during each cycle, with symptoms much stronger than those that occur on other days of the month.
Menstruation isn't the only trigger for hormone-induced headaches. Other causes include:
- the use of the contraceptive pill, some women report an improvement in headaches while taking the pill, while for others, attacks become more frequent, especially in the week off the pill, when estrogen levels plummet
- menopause, headaches usually get worse as you approach menopause, partly because your periods become more frequent and partly because your normal hormonal cycle is interrupted
- the pregnancy, headaches may worsen during the first few weeks of pregnancy but usually improve or disappear completely during the last six months. In any case, they do not harm the child
It is very important to write down in a diary, for at least three menstrual cycles, the frequency and duration of the attacks, together with the onset and duration of the menstrual cycle, to understand if migraine is related to it.
Tips for self-healing of hormone-induced headaches
If your diary shows that headaches start shortly before your period, the following steps can be taken to help prevent them:
- prefer small frequent meals, have a small snack before bedtime, never skipping breakfast, to keep blood sugar levels high. Skipping meals or fasting for too long can trigger attacks
- maintain a regular sleep cycle, avoid sleeping too much or too little
- eliminate stressful situations, to keep stress under control, a valid help is given by regular physical activity and relaxation techniques
Hormone-induced headache therapy
- estrogen therapy, if your period is regular, taking estrogen just before your period and for a few days during your period can relieve menstrual migraines. Your doctor may prescribe estrogen therapy, in the form of a gel to spread on the skin or of patch to be applied to one area of the body
- migraine therapy, your doctor may prescribe anti-migraine medications to be taken during your menstrual cycle. These products do not contain hormones, but they can help prevent headaches from occurring. These are triptan based tablets and a pain reliever called mefenamic acid, belonging to the family of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- taking the contraceptive pill continuously, if the headaches worsen during the week off the pill, it is possible to avoid the sharp drop in estrogen level by taking the pill continuously, ie without interruption between cycles.
- hormone replacement therapy, the hormonal changes that occur in women near menopause lead to an aggravation of any form of headache, including migraine. If you want to take hormone replacement therapy to relieve symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and excessive sweating, it is preferable to use the formulations in patch or gel. The latter, in fact, compared to tablets, present a lower risk of influencing the onset of migraine since they keep hormonal levels more stable
International Headache Society (IHS). The International Classification of Headache Disorders 3rd. edition