For both men and women, there are many things
that contribute to headaches. But for women,
there’s a link between hormonal changes and headaches. Fortunately, there are
things you can do that’ll help.
How Do Hormones Cause Headaches and Migraines?
The hormones estrogen and progesterone play a
key role in regulating the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. They and may also
affect headache-related chemicals in the brain. Headaches can be triggered when
there’s a fluctuation in your estrogen levels, including when there’s a dip in
estrogen levels around the time of your menstrual cycle.
Tension headaches and migraines are the most
common headaches experienced by women. A tension headache feels like there’s a
band around your head, while a migraine headache is characterized by a
throbbing and pounding feeling in your head.
Health Risk Assessment
Being health aware isn’t just about eating well or staying active.
There are many reasons why changing levels of
hormones can cause headaches. Here are some of the most common causes:
Birth control. For some women, the
pill can make migraines worse and for others, it can lessen them. Birth control
pills keep your hormone levels steady for three weeks out of every month. When
you take placebo pills or no pills at all during the week of your period, your
estrogen levels plummet and headaches can occur.
This type of medicine, taken by women during menopause to control their
hormones, can also cause headaches. Estrogen patches are less likely to cause
headaches because they give you a low, consistent dose of the hormone.
Menopause. Once you stop having
periods, you’ll most likely have fewer migraines. Though some women notice that
while their migraines get better, tension headaches get worse.
Menstruation. About 60% of women with
migraines get a type of headache called menstrual migraines. Just before your
period, your estrogen and progesterone levels drop, which can cause throbbing
Perimenopause. During the years
before you actually start menopause, your estrogen levels fluctuate greatly.
Many women are more prone to get tension headaches, which are stress-related,
and migraines during this time.
Pregnancy. During your first
trimester, your estrogen levels rise quickly, then level out. Because of this,
many women notice that their migraine headaches get better or go away after
their third month of pregnancy. If you do still get headaches, it’s important
not to take migraine medications because many are harmful to your baby. Check
with your doctor about what medications are safe to take.
How to Prevent Hormonal Migraines and Headaches
There are things you can do to help prevent
migraines and headaches, so talk with your doctor about which of the following
might be best for you:
Birth control pills. Birth control pills,
estrogen patches, and vaginal rings may help lower the number of menstrual
migraines you have, or lessen their severity. Unfortunately, they don’t work
for everyone and, in some cases, can even make your headaches worse. If you get
migraines with auras, using birth control that contains estrogen and
progesterone can be dangerous. There are some other reasons why your doctor may
not want you to take birth control for your menstrual migraines, including:
A history of smoking
High blood pressure
Medicines that treat
The drugs typically used to treat menstrual migraines can also be used to
prevent them. These medications include:
Medicines that prevent
If you’re not responding to other treatments and have four more days of
migraine days a month, your doctor may recommend preventative medications,
medications (like beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers)
Devices. The following medical
devices may bring relief:
Cefaly. This small headband device
sends electrical pulses through your forehead to stimulate a nerve linked with
SpringTMS or eNeura
You place this magnet on the back of your head, and a split-second pulse
interrupts abnormal electrical activity that could lead to a migraine.
gammaCore. This handheld device
is held over the vagus nerve in your neck and releases a mild electrical
stimulation to the nerve’s fibers to relieve pain.
Nerivio. Operated through an
app on your smartphone, this device is worn on a band on your upper arm and
sends low-frequency electrical pulses for 30-45 minutes to stop the onset of a
Learn More About Hormonal Changes, Headaches, and Migraines from Baptist Health
If you believe you’re experiencing headaches or
migraines due to hormonal changes, contact Baptist Health to learn more about
your treatment options.