Period headaches are some of the most unpleasant symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle. When your head feels like it’s being gripped in a vice, it’s difficult to concentrate on school or work or even the most mundane tasks. If you frequently get a menstrual migraine headache when you’re on your period, we feel you!
Here’s what you should know about what’s causing those maddening period migraine symptoms and what you can do to minimize them (or hopefully make them go away completely!)
Types of Headaches
There are four main types of period headaches. They are:
- Hormonal Headache: This type of headache typically sets in right when your period starts. It usually feels like a band of pressure across the forehead but can spread to other areas of the head as well.
- PMS Headache: Premenstrual syndrome comes with all sorts of lovely symptoms, such as mood swings, fatigue, and painful cramps. But if you’re lucky, you get to add headaches to your list of PMS symptoms as well. Congrats, girl! PMS headache pain usually occurs before your period starts.
- Low–Iron Headache: This type of headache almost always happens once your period is over or as it’s ending. While every woman loses some iron as part of the menstrual cycle, it’s usually minimal and replenishes quickly. However, for those of us who experience very heavy menstrual bleeding, we may be losing too much iron each month and may get headaches as a result.
- Menstrual Migraine: Menstrual migraines are a lot like hormonal headaches but much more painful. Sometimes, they’re accompanied by anxiety, vomiting, neck pain, sensitivity to light, and nausea.
These are the main types of menstrual-related migraine and headache types. However, it’s important to understand that not all women experience monthly headaches that fit neatly into these categories or descriptions. Some women have migraine pain that feels a lot like cluster headaches, which are so intense that they can wake you from your sleep. Others may feel like their period headaches feel more like tension headaches, which are often described as dull pain and tightness around the forehead or the back of the neck and head.
No matter what your menstrual cycle headaches feel like, it’s time to go over why they’re happening in the first place. Most importantly, let’s discover some of the tried-and-true methods for getting rid of period headaches or at least minimizing their frequency and experiencing some pain relief.
How Hormones Affect Headaches
While changes in the levels of estrogen and progesterone are normal throughout our cycles and during pregnancy, these hormones can become unbalanced. When that happens, our monthly symptoms (including menstrual cramps, menstrual bleeding, and menstrual headaches) tend to be much worse than they would otherwise be. By understanding the link between hormones and headaches better, we may be able to ease our menstrual pain.
Why We Get Period Headaches
Our bodies are very sensitive to hormone changes. When any hormone level rises or plummets, it can lead to the development of a migraine headache in some women. Generally, our favorite female hormones (i.e., estrogen and progesterone) are responsible for our monthly migraine symptoms, though serotonin plays an important role as well. These hormones rise and fall throughout our menstrual cycle. Here’s how changes in estrogen, progesterone, and serotonin can cause any of the migraines we learned about above.
During our period, our progesterone and estrogen levels drop. This drop in estrogen and progesterone can lead to hormonal headaches. In addition to pressure and pain in your head, you may also feel fatigued, cramps, and mood swings. These are all par for the course and aren’t unusual (though they’re annoying and disruptive).
Once our period is over, our progesterone and estrogen hormones start to wake up from their naps. As they rise, we may experience post-period headaches. Remember, though, that headaches occurring after our periods can also indicate low iron from blood loss.
Though it’s not as common, some women experience migraines or headaches during ovulation as well. This is when estrogen begins to take a nosedive as progesterone continues to rise into the next phase.
During the luteal phase of our cycle, our progesterone level is at its highest, while our estrogen level is moderately high. At the end of the luteal phase, both estrogen and progesterone drop drastically. To make matters worse, serotonin drops during this time as well. This can not only affect your mood in the days leading up to your period but can also cause hormonal headaches or menstrual migraines.
It’s worth noting that some women experience period-like headaches even during pregnancy. This is because hormones continue to rise and fall up to and even after the baby is born. But if we can balance our hormones better, we may be able to find some pain relief.
Now that you know why you experience monthly headaches, it’s time to figure out how to stop them from happening. Here are some prevention ideas that work well for many women.
- Take NSAIDs. If you’re in a pinch, you can take NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or naproxen twice per day, beginning a few days before your period starts. Then continue to take them for a few days after your period arrives. However, we would not suggest doing this every month. While it may seem simple to just take a pill to relieve the pain and inflammation, these OTC drugs are masking the pain instead of treating the pain. Keep in mind that NSAIDs are only a temporary solution but won’t help your body in the long run.
- Take hormonal contraception. For some women, hormonal birth control pills can help minimize migraine attacks. But just like NSAIDs, this is only putting a bandaid on the problem. While this method can increase some of the necessary hormones your body might not produce enough of, it is better to balance and regulate your hormones at their root to experience true relief. While some women have experienced relief with hormonal contraception, you should consider the possible side effects before beginning any medication.
- Take doctor-prescribed Triptans. Triptan medications are often used to treat a migraine that’s already occurring. However, they may also be able to prevent menstrual migraines if you take them two days before you typically get a period migraine. Continue taking them for up to seven days. Keep in mind that Triptans can potentially lead to rebound headaches (also known as medication overuse headaches) and can also cause nausea and dizziness.
- Balance your hormones. Imbalanced hormones cause a wide variety of symptoms we ladies don’t want to have, including period headaches. If our estrogen or progesterone levels are a little crazy, we may be able to bring them into proper balance with natural supplements such as Hertime Daily.
Though most of the time, having a headache during period is nothing to be worried about and can be managed with medication, some headaches are cause for concern. That’s why it’s important to know when to see a doctor. If you have frequent migraine attacks that impede your ability to live a fulfilling life, or if your headaches are accompanied by extreme nausea and vomiting, you may want to see your doctor. There could be an underlying problem, such as a headache disorder, causing your symptoms.
If you would rather manage your headaches naturally instead of taking medication and dealing with the side effects, here are some home remedies you may want to try the next time you’re suffering from headaches or period pain of any kind.
- Try yoga. There are some yoga poses that may minimize period headaches.
- Sleep more. A restful night of sleep can help release tension throughout your body, including in your head.
- Hydrate. Dehydration can make period headaches worse, so start chugging!
- Relax. Take a warm bath or try meditation to experience the calming effects for your mind and body.
- Nutritional Supplments. By giving your body the proper nutrition it needs, you can find real and long-lasting relief from many of those pesky period symptoms, including headaches. The micronutrients, (such as white peony root, Chinese licorice, and giant kelp leaf) found in our supplement, Hertime, will help your body return to producing the correct amounts of hormones. By fixing the root of the problem, you can correct your hormone levels and alleviate any symptoms associated with hormonal imbalances. Hertime Daily is a natural, gentle formula that tastes great and provides optimal support for our monthly hormonal changes. It may be one of the most effective tools available to us ladies for reducing our period headaches once and for all.
While many of these suggestions can provide short-term benefits, we need a long-term strategy for minimizing pain during menstruation. That’s where hormone balancing comes in. It’s worth repeating that balancing hormones can help us ladies reduce our menstrual flow, minimize our period pain, and help us have more pleasant menstrual periods overall.