As if simply being a woman and being on your period isn’t rough enough – the monthly bleeding, the cramps, nausea, etc. – sometimes us gals can fall victim to menstrual migraines as well! Talk about a tough break, huh? They may sound like a nightmare – but we are here to help and arm you with knowledge, so you can meet them, er, head on.
Are They Common?
In short – yup, menstrual migraines sure are! Over 50% of women actually report being affected by these headaches, so you are not alone.
Just What Are They?
Very similar to a regular migraine, these headaches are both intense and persistent and spring up during and/or after your period. They are in fact caused by the naturally occurring drop in your estrogen levels and the release of the hormone prostaglandin that happens right before your period starts.
What does that mean for you, migraine-wise? Basically, that you can count on that headache popping up at some point in the two days before and the first three days of menstruation.
The Biggie – How Do You Beat Them?
This one is pretty simple and straightforward: you can treat them just as you would a regular, non-menstrual migraine. Lay ice or a cold towel on your forehead or pained area, practice calming breathing and relaxation exercises, take ibuprofen and other painkillers, avoid high sensitivity triggers (such as light or loud noises), eat foods that are not harsh on your stomach, etc.
Can They Be Prevented?
While you may not be able to stop them from occurring altogether, it is possible to lessen or mitigate their stronger effects. The same things you would do to try and ward of normal migraines apply, along with any measures you can take to balance out hormone fluctuations. This can include: changing up your diet to rely on less simple carbs, refined sugars and overly processed foods, exercise regularly, stay hydrated (with water, not soda), adjust your sleeping patterns to ensure you are getting a full eight hours, adding in magnesium supplements to your diet (which relaxes the blood vessels that tend to tighten up during a migraine), etc.
You can also begin tracking your menstrual migraines (frequency, intensity, symptoms and more) so you can talk with your healthcare provider about them should they plague you too much.
Another possible savior? Birth control pills. The strictly regimented menstruation times that accompany a birth control regimen (be it pills, patch, ring, or whatnot) also controls the possibility of a menstrual migraine by ensuring the dip in estrogen that can trigger one does not actually occur.
As always, if you are experiencing migraines during your period that become too frequent or intense, or you are experiencing a sudden change in them, it’s best to consult your doctor. But rest assured, you are not alone in this period effect and there is a whole community out there to help get you through the pain.