The Connection Between Headaches and Your Period

By Carolina Boyd, Communications Associate

Monthly menstrual cycles brings about many hormonal changes and for many those changes include headaches. While some experience mild headaches others can suffer debilitating migraines.

Hormonal headaches occur at other times in life, including perimenopause and menopause. However, during a menstrual cycle, the body’s level of estrogen and progesterone rise and fall in preparation for pregnancy. The level of these hormones impact the severity and prevalence of headaches.

Estrogen and progesterone levels are at its lowest right before the start of a period which makes some more likely to experience headaches.  When a person experiences frequent headaches around the time of their periods, the pain often stems from Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) or menstrual migraines.

PMS headaches usually pop up one-to-two weeks before a period begins. Beyond the headaches, symptoms of PMS also include food cravings, breast tenderness, poor sleep and irritability. Menstrual migraines usually occur before, during or immediately after a period. The symptoms may be similar to those of any other migraine headaches. Those include light sensitivity, throbbing head pain, nausea and vomiting.

If period headaches interfere with daily life, talk to a doctor. Treatment will depend largely on the severity of the headaches and actual symptoms. When PMS is the underlying issue, a range of treatments like hormonal contraceptives, antidepressant medication and supplements can help to bring relief. Over-the-counter pain relief medication, like ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium may also ease mild headache pain.

For menstrual migraine headaches, a stronger pain relief medication may be prescribed by a doctor when necessary.  Your provider may also order blood work and imaging tests, such as a CT scan or MRI, to make sure there are no other causes for the headaches.

If you notice that your periods are causing frequent headaches or you are experiencing frequent pain or discomfort, reach out to your Legacy Community Health provider to learn more about what you can do to get some relief.  Visit our website or call 832-548-5000 to schedule an appointment.