What are hormonal headaches?
Headaches occurring in women triggered by the fluctuation of hormones are referred as hormonal headaches. The hormonal changes in women lead to chronic headaches and may also cause menstrual migraines. Migraines are episodes of headaches which may or may preceded by premonitory symptoms and may or may not be accompanied by a feeling of nausea or vomiting.
Researchers say that about 5 million women suffer from hormonal headaches every month.
Headaches, particularly migraine headaches, have been associated with the hormone, oestrogen. Oestrogen is responsible for chemical balance in the brain which impacts pain perception. Any lowering of this hormone can lead to a headache. The changes in this hormone levels can occur during:
- Menstrual Cycle: The oestrogen and progesterone levels fall to their lowest before the menstruation.
- Pregnancy: The levels of oestrogen are maximal in pregnancy. After the delivery, the levels of oestrogen fall rapidly.
- Menopause: During the years leading to menopause (perimenopause) some women experience more headaches. Hormone replacement therapy during menopause also leads to fluctuations in hormones.
- Combined oral contraceptive pills: Some women report improvement in their headaches when they are on the pill, while other women also report more recurrent headaches, particularly in the pill-free week, where the oestrogen level drops.
A severe headache can be accompanied by sensitivity to light or sound, eye pain, nausea or vomiting.
To check if the menstrual cycle and headaches are linked, your doctor may ask you to keep a headache diary. It helps in establishing the pattern between the headaches and menstrual cycle.
Home management of hormonal headaches
- Remain hydrated by drinking plenty of water
- Use an ice pack on the head
- Rest in a dark room
- Learn deep breathing and relaxation techniques
Your doctor may prescribe:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication
- Beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, anticonvulsants, antidepressants
- Oestrogen Supplements: If you have regular periods, hormonal headaches can be eased with oestrogen supplementation.
Hormonal headaches associated with your menstrual cycle can be prevented by taking medications a few days before your menstrual cycle. A headache diary can help in identifying triggers and assist in avoiding them as much as possible.
Hormonal headaches can lead to the likelihood of sleep disturbances, anxiety, and other physical and psychological problems.
Discuss your headache treatment with your doctor, if you are breastfeeding, as some medications can affect your baby’s development.
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- Hormones and Migraine. National Headache Foundation. http://www.headaches.org/2007/10/25/hormones-and-migraine/. Accessed 6 Mar 16
- Hormone headaches. NHS Choices. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/headaches/Pages/Hormonalheadaches.aspx. Accessed 6 Mar 16.
- Hormone Headaches Menstrual Migraines. Cleveland Clinic. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_Migraine_Headaches/hic_Hormone_Headaches-Menstrual_Migraines. Accessed 6 Mar 16
- Migraine fact sheet. (2012, July 16). Womenshealth.gov. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/migraine.html. Accessed 6 Mar 16