Why Do Women Experience Menstrual Migraine?

Menstrual migraines, also called period migraines, occur with a fluctuation of hormones that commences with a woman’s menses.  Because hormones are known to affect a woman’s central nervous system, some researchers theorize that estrogen is linked to brain chemicals that regulate pain signals. Either way, menstrual migraines are thought to be caused by a drop in estrogen, which typically occurs before menstruation.

Menstrual migraine symptoms are similar to the symptoms of other migraines but the pain may be more severe and is often the worst headache of the month. They can also include:

Any type of hormonal fluctuation, such as oral contraceptives and perimenopause can trigger menstrual migraine headaches. These types of migraines, unlike other kinds, are easily diagnosed in relation to a woman’s menstrual cycle.

What Type of Treatment Works Best?

In general, migraine attacks are reported to occur several days prior to a woman’s menstrual cycle or in the early stages, but may occur after menses. Something as simple as being aware of your menstrual cycle can help a headache specialist decide which menstrual migraine medication will be most effective and safe for your specific case. Treatment for purely menstrual migraine generally first involves pharmacologic therapy and is individualized depending on the frequency, severity and duration of the headaches.  If other types of migraine are present, we may start out with a more comprehensive plan from the beginning if necessary.

A custom-tailored menstrual migraine treatment plan not only can prevent the occurrence of menstrual migraine but also provide relief during an attack.

Treating You at Adkins Headache Center

Treatment for other hormonally-associated migraine conditions will likely involve a more comprehensive individualized plan from the beginning for successful results.  Treating your condition effectively will most likely revolve around pharmacological therapy. It’s important to visit a headache specialist who understands which medications and doses will work best for you. Typically, medication used for headaches unrelated to hormones will be effective at addressing your symptoms.


If you suffer from intense, incapacitating headaches several times a month, a specialist will recommend a preventive treatment plan along with acute treatment with a triptan.

Based on your medical history, daily preventive medication can include:

  • Anticonvulsants
  • Magnesium
  • Beta blockers
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Antidepressants
Menstrual Migraine