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Health & Wellbeing / Claire Blackmore

#TabooTuesday: Hormone Headaches And Menstrual Migraines

Do you ever feel like your head is going to explode just before you get your period or when you come on? If the answer is yes, then your headaches may well be linked to your hormones. Also, if you’re a migraine sufferer, it’s worth knowing that migraines affect three times more women than men, and typically during their most productive years.

Today, Dr Louise Newson, a GP who holds regular women’s health clinics at Spire Parkway Hospital in Solihull answers our questions about hormonal headaches.

What actually happens when we have a headache?

“Brain tissue cannot feel pain processes so a headache has nothing to do with your brain hurting! It is really pain signals that are sent from your nerves, blood vessels or muscles being picked up by nerve endings located in your head. Hence it appears you have headache when the situation stems from elsewhere in your body.”

How can headaches be caused by our hormones?

“Some women are very sensitive to the changing levels of the hormone oestrogen, which can occur before their periods, during the perimenopause or during the menopause.  This can result in headaches or migraines developing.  They can also occur at other times when hormone levels are changing, such as during pregnancy and when taking some types of oral contraceptives.”

What are the signs that headaches and migraines are menstrual related?

“There is no specific test to determine if your headache is related to hormones.  It is worth making a headache diary to document when you have a headache in relation to your periods.

The more common times to have periods related to your hormones are the days just before your period and during your periods or when you have the week break from the contraceptive pill.  They can also be more common when your periods change in frequency and nature and you experience perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, tiredness and low mood.”

Apart from popping a painkiller, how can menstrual migraines and hormonal headaches be managed?

“There are different treatments available which often include hormone treatments to replace the low oestrogen that occurs at the time of the headaches.  Some women take the contraceptive pill continuously rather than having a break every month.

“Using oestrogen for around seven days, usually as a gel, starting just before your period starts can replace the low levels and often can really improve symptoms.

“Women who are perimenopausal and menopausal often find that their headaches really improve by taking HRT.  When HRT is started in women under 60 years, the benefits of HRT outweigh any risks.”

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