Coping With Menstrual Migraines

Are you tired of the excruciating pain and disruption that comes with menstrual migraines? You're not alone. In this article, you will find valuable insights and practical tips on coping with menstrual migraines. By understanding the causes, recognizing the signs, and implementing effective coping mechanisms, you can alleviate the pain and take control of your well-being.

Coping with menstrual migraines can be achieved through early detection, understanding triggers, implementing coping mechanisms, and considering medication options as prescribed by a healthcare provider. By recognizing the symptoms, identifying individual triggers, making lifestyle changes, trying alternative therapies, and seeking professional support, individuals assigned female at birth (AFAB) can effectively manage and alleviate the pain and disruption caused by menstrual migraines.

If you're tired of suffering from menstrual migraines, there is hope. In the following sections, we will delve deeper into each aspect of coping with menstrual migraines. From understanding the causes and triggers to implementing effective coping mechanisms, this article aims to equip you with the knowledge and strategies to manage your migraines and find relief. 


Migraine is far more than a mere headache; it involves intricate dysregulation within the central nervous system. This complex disorder primarily manifests as long-lasting headaches with moderate to severe pain. Notably, it exhibits a higher prevalence among AFABs, with a cumulative lifetime prevalence estimated at 43%.1

The peak prevalence of migraines is observed during the early 30s to early 40s.2 Furthermore, a significant number of AFABs experience menstrual-related headaches during the perimenopausal period, which may be attributed to fluctuations in estrogen levels. Remarkably, by the time the AFABs reach their early 50s, up to 41% of them will have encountered a migraine episode.3

One particular type of migraine that affects a significant number of AFABs is menstrual migraines also known as hormone headaches. These recurring headaches coincide with an AFAB's menstrual cycle, affecting around 60-70% of AFABs and often leading to worsened or new-onset migraines during their periods. The impact goes beyond physical pain, disrupting daily activities, work, and social life. But fret not! In this guide, we'll share practical coping strategies and invaluable insights to help you effectively manage menstrual migraines, allowing you to take back control and enhance your overall quality of life.

Understanding menstrual migraine

Menstrual migraines are believed to be triggered by hormonal fluctuations, particularly the rise and fall of estrogen and progesterone levels during the menstrual cycle. These hormonal changes can influence the brain's pain sensitivity and trigger migraines in susceptible individuals. 

Hormonal fluctuations and their role 

What are hormones?

Hormones are like messengers of your body, sending important signals to different parts, just like text messages travelling from your phone to various friends. They play a crucial role in coordinating your menstrual cycle and impact how you feel physically and emotionally. Think of hormones as your body's information source, constantly exchanging vital messages to keep everything running smoothly and in sync. 

Two main sex hormones in AFABs:

In the bustling network of your body, two main hormone messengers take the lead: estrogen and progesterone. They're like trusted partners in communication, exchanging texts within your body's chat group and affecting your experiences during your menstrual cycle.

  • Estrogen -  The Energizing Text: At the start of your cycle, estrogen takes charge like an energizing text from a dear friend, giving you a boost of excitement. It prepares your body for various possibilities, much like the anticipation of a new adventure. As estrogen levels rise, you may feel more energetic and cheerful
  • Progesterone - The Comforting Message: As your cycle progresses, estrogen takes a step back, and progesterone steps in like a comforting message from a close friend. Progesterone brings a sense of calmness, nurturing your body and emotions, much like a comforting conversation that eases your worries. During this phase, you may feel more relaxed and composed

What happens during their fluctuation?

Throughout your menstrual cycle, estrogen and progesterone exchange messages like a lively chat between partners, guiding your body's rhythm and flow. When estrogen reaches its peak, it's like receiving an enthusiastic text, and as it gracefully declines, progesterone takes over like a seamless transition, offering comforting messages. These hormonal exchanges can impact some individuals and contribute to the occurrence of menstrual migraines.

Understanding this can offer you a relatable way to grasp how hormones influence menstrual migraines.

Differentiating menstrual migraines from regular migraines

Menstrual migraines have distinct features that differentiate them from regular migraines. They typically occur within a specific timeframe during the menstrual cycle and are mediated by fluctuations in estrogen levels.4 A regular migraine typically occurs due to stress, caffeine, skipping a meal etc. 

Identifying common signs and symptoms

Menstrual migraines often present with throbbing headaches, which can be severe and debilitating. 

Other symptoms may include:

  • Sensitivity to light and sound 
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting  

Some individuals may also experience aura, which includes visual disturbances like flashes of light or blind spots before the headache starts.

Tracking and monitoring menstrual migraine patterns

Keeping a menstrual migraine diary can be immensely helpful in identifying triggers and patterns. By recording the timing, severity, and duration of your migraines, you can gain valuable insights into your unique migraine profile. Share this information with your healthcare provider to develop a personalized treatment plan.

Coping strategies and lifestyle changes

Below are some of the lifestyle changes that can help individuals cope with menstrual migraine 

Diet and nutrition tips 

Magnesium can provide relief from menstrual migraines. A well-balanced diet that includes magnesium-rich foods, like dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds like almonds, bananas and whole grains, may help reduce migraine frequency. 

Stay hydrated

Ensuring adequate hydration is essential to alleviate migraine symptoms. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, while limiting excessive caffeine and alcohol intake, as they can potentially trigger migraines.

Regular exercise 

Incorporating regular exercise into your routine is a powerful tool for managing migraines and promoting overall well-being. Engaging in activities like walking, swimming, or cycling not only benefits your body but also releases endorphins, our body's natural "happy pills." These endorphins play a crucial role in reducing stress and acting as natural painkillers, which can be transformative in preventing migraines. 

Sleep and rest

Adequate and consistent sleep is vital for managing migraines. Aim for quality sleep each night and establish a calming bedtime routine to signal your body to unwind and prepare for restful sleep. Dim the lights, avoid screens, and engage in relaxing activities before bedtime.

Create a support system

Living with menstrual migraines can be emotionally and physically challenging. Having a supportive network in place, including family, friends, and healthcare professionals, can be immensely helpful in coping with the difficulties. Such support can offer understanding, advice, and encouragement during tough times, significantly improving the quality of life for those experiencing menstrual migraines.

Stress management

Stress has been identified as a significant trigger for migraine attacks.5 Implementing stress-reduction practices such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga can foster relaxation and minimize the impact of stress on migraines.

Medication options

Treatment choices for menstrual migraines vary based on the frequency of your menstrual cycle, the presence of painful or heavy periods, menopausal symptoms, and contraceptive needs.

For those with regular periods, the recommended approach may involve taking medication during a specific timeframe around menstruation (starting two days before and continuing up to three days after the onset of bleeding). 

Options include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like naproxen or mefenamic acid, estrogen supplements, and triptans. Your healthcare provider will guide you in selecting the most suitable option for your specific needs. 

Oral contraceptives may cause changes in migraine frequency and severity for women with migraines, in some cases women without headaches may develop migraines as a side effect of oral contraceptives. Taking oral contraceptives can help reduce migraine attacks just before your period starts. 

Natural supplements like magnesium, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and coenzyme Q10 have shown promise in reducing migraine frequency and severity.6


How long do menstrual migraines typically last?

Menstrual migraines can vary in duration, lasting from a few hours to a few days, depending on the individual.

Can birth control pills help prevent menstrual migraines?

Birth control pills containing estrogen may regulate hormonal fluctuations and reduce the frequency of menstrual migraines in some women.

Can menstrual migraines be completely cured?

While there is no definitive cure for menstrual migraines, managing triggers, adopting a healthy lifestyle, and using appropriate medications can significantly reduce their frequency and severity in many women.


Menstrual migraines are mostly seen occurring before or during menstruation. Most AFABs experience improvement in migraines after menopause. Fluctuations in the two main sex hormones in AFABs are responsible for migraines. 

Individuals apart from throbbing headaches experience symptoms like nausea, dizziness, vomiting, blurred vision, fatigue, aura etc. Unfortunately, there are no specific cures for migraines. However, there are a range of medications and remedies that can at least help those with the condition reduce their symptoms. Exercising, clocking adequate sleep, keeping yourself hydrated, having a proper healthy diet etc. can help cope with menstrual migraines. Apart from these, your healthcare provider can prescribe NSAIDs, oral contraceptives or natural supplements like magnesium, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and coenzyme Q10.

Coping with menstrual migraines can be challenging, but understanding the causes, recognizing the signs, and implementing effective coping mechanisms can make a significant difference. Remember, you don't have to suffer in silence; seek medical advice when needed, as help and support are available to guide you through the challenges of menstrual migraines.


  1. Pavlović JM. The impact of midlife on migraine in women: summary of current views. Womens Midlife Health. 2020;6:11. Available from: 
  2. Moy G, Gupta V. Menstrual-related headache. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 [cited 2023 Sep 26]. Available from: 
  3. Burch R. Epidemiology and treatment of menstrual migraine and migraine during pregnancy and lactation: a narrative review. Headache. 2020 Jan;60(1):200–16. Available from: 
  4. Sacco S, Ricci S, Degan D, Carolei A. Migraine in women: the role of hormones and their impact on vascular diseases. J Headache Pain [Internet]. 2012 Feb 26 [cited 2023 Sep 26];13(3):177–89. Available from: 
  5. Stubberud A, Buse DC, Kristoffersen ES, Linde M, Tronvik E. Is there a causal relationship between stress and migraine? Current evidence and implications for management. The Journal of Headache and Pain [Internet]. 2021 Dec 20 [cited 2023 Sep 26];22(1):155. Available from: 
  6. Sun-Edelstein C, Mauskop A. Alternative headache treatments: nutraceuticals, behavioral and physical treatments. Headache. 2011 Mar;51(3):469–83. Available from: 
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Nwanyieze Peace Abazie

MBBS, Imo State University, Nigeria

Medical Doctor, Writer, and Health Advocate. Expert in translating complex medical knowledge into relatable content. Dedicated to creating impactful, plagiarism-free health awareness. Passionate about research, collaboration, and effective communication for health brands. A captivating public speaker inspiring wellness and positive change in the healthcare industry. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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