Hormonal Headaches Overview
Headaches caused by hormonal changes in the body are referred to as hormonal headaches. Many women experience hormonal headaches due to fluctuations in female hormones progesterone and estrogen. They are usually associated with a drop in estrogen levels. The menstrual cycle is frequently responsible for hormonal headaches. However, menarche (the time at which menstruation first begins), premenstrual syndrome, pregnancy and menopause can also lead to hormonal headaches.
The leading cause of headache and migraine is stress. The next leading culprit is female hormone disbalance.
Premenstrual Syndrome and Hormonal Headaches
Hormonal headaches may begin seven to eleven days before menstrual period and continue as a part of premenstrual syndrome along with other symptoms such as acne outbreaks, constipation, emotional sensitivity, anxiety, increased appetite and fatigue. As one of the PMS symptoms, hormonal headaches can appear similar to migraine headaches. Usually, there is a throbbing pain on one side of the head, nausea and vomiting. This can be aggravated by bright light and loud noises. But, not all women experience hormonal headaches of equal severity.
Headaches during menstrual cycle were, for a long time, considered to be a normal. However, such headache is now identified as menstrual migraine. Unlike premenstrual hormonal headaches, menstrual migraine occurs during the menstrual period, usually between the second day of menstrual bleeding and the end of menstruation. Hormonal headaches and menstrual migraine occur when estrogen receptors bind and unbind from the blood vessels lining the outer surface of the brain. This causes blood vessels to dilate and result in pain. Blood vessels remain dilated as long as levels of estrogen fluctuate.
Menopause Hormonal Headaches
Hormonal headaches triggered by the beginning of the menopause are known as menopause migraine headache syndrome. Just like in the case of menarche hormonal headaches, menopause migraine headaches are caused by wide fluctuation of female hormones. After the menopause, hormonal headaches usually improve.
Pregnancy and Hormonal Headaches
Women, who have suffered from hormonal headaches and menstrual migraine, usually notice significant improvement in pregnancy. This is because estrogen levels are constantly high during pregnancy. However, in some women, hormonal headaches can become more frequent and severe in pregnancy. They usually take place in the first trimester of pregnancy and during the postpartum period due to extreme hormonal changes. Migraine headaches that first start in pregnancy should not be ignored as they can indicate serious pregnancy complications.
Treatment for Hormonal Headaches
Treatment for migraine headaches aims to prevent migraine attacks or to reduce its frequency and severity. Oral contraceptives alter estrogen levels and can relieve the symptoms in some women while in some this can actually worsen the headaches. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain killers can be used to treat migraine attacks or even prevent them if taken few days before an expected period.