All about menstrual migraines

May 26, 2008 at 3:13 p.m. ET

It's natural to feel "off" before and during your period. But many women suffer much more extreme symptoms each month, including menstrual migraine, a severe, one-sided, throbbing headache that can last from 24 to 72 hours. According to research conducted by the National Headache Foundation (NHF), 94 percent of women surveyed said they suffer from headaches before, during, or immediately after their menstrual cycles. However, over half of them also reported never having discussed menstrual migraines with their healthcare professional.

Woman with Migraine
The NHF is raising awareness this month, marking June 4th as Menstrual Migraine Awareness Day, and encouraging women to become educated about this treatable condition.

Menstrual Migraines Are Extreme

About 12 million American women suffer from menstrual migraines, which may also bring on more nausea and vomiting as compared with other headaches that occur at other times of the month. There are prescription and natural remedies to get rid of PMS and there are, thankfully, treatments for menstrual migraines. Here's more about these agonizing headaches, and what you can do about it.


Wondering why you suffer from menstrual migraines? While the exact cause is not known, experts suggest that it is most likely due to the hormonal changes that naturally occur during your monthly menstrual cycle. Particularly, fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone may trigger a migraine, especially if you are on birth control pills, which further influence hormonal levels. Additionally, if you have a family history of menstruation-related headaches, you are probably a likely candidate for the condition.


Although seemingly intolerable at times, menstrual migraines are a treatable condition. Your doctor may suggest taking an over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like Aleve, Advil or Motrin as soon as you feel a headache coming on (or 24 hours before the expected onset if you always experience your migraines at the same day of the month). Or, she might prescribe other medications like Triptans (to fight pain and control nausea and vomiting) or a low-dose of birth control (to regulate hormone levels). And since magnesium deficiency is particularly common in women with menstrual migraines, you may try to treat your pain with 400 to 600 milligrams a day of magnesium oxide.


Research suggests that nearly half of all women suffering from menstrual migraines do not receive a proper diagnosis. So when it comes to dealing, seeing a doctor is key to determine the root of your headaches and to figure out a treatment plan to rid yourself of this monthly malady for good.

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