The Monthly Cycle of Menstrual Migraines

 Menstrual  migraines are a part of many women’s monthly menstruation  cycle  that causes pain and suffering. Menstruation is a natural phenomenon of changing hormones and emotions that occur cyclically for women who reach menarche in their youth and ends when women enter their later years with menopause.

60% of women who experience migraines find that they are associated with menstruation. And women are three times more likely to experience migraines than men. The only time women experience a respite from migraines is during pregnancy when there is a temporary cessation of menstruation.

New studies are proving the correlation of hormone release and the increase of migraine headaches. These hormone changes are highlighted in the journal, “Headache”, as the beginning of a research series into the complicated theories behind menstruation, ovarian hormones, and migraines. The article states that migraine attacks can occur before and during menstruation. Migraines come in two forms, with or without auras.

Types of Migraine Headaches

Without auras, both women and men experience headaches that may be localized to a certain area of the head or may be generalized and may last from four hours to three days. Women are more likely to experience longer duration migraines not necessarily associated with menstruation. Migraines with auras are more severe. Many people seek help from a physician when experiencing migraines with uras. The most common auras are visual and can be bright colors surrounding the outer visual field. The headaches with auras are less intense and shorter lasting than headaches without auras.

Hormones and Migraines

In females, the neurological effects of migraines, from aura or non-aura producing, may be caused by the two female ovaries release of the hormones estrogen and progesterone during menstruation. This release is a result of a monthly cycle in response to the brains hormones. Given their far reaching effects, ovarian hormones circulate the female body through the blood stream and can enter the brain through a physical component known as the blood brain barrier. This is where the migraine takes place in the central nervous system and areas surrounding the brain.

In order for the estrogen and progesterone to affect the areas within the head, there must be certain “receptors”, molecules that a hormone will attach to in order for it to cause an action on its area of influence. Like a medication prescribed by our physician, the estrogen has side effects that are unwanted. We can minimize the migraine effects by taking prophylactic medications such as acetaminophen, aspirin, and even caffeine. Many holistic treatments are also available. These include acupuncture, hypnosis, and herbal therapy.


Women have a burden in dealing with their menstruation, PMS, all combined with a migraine. Studies are being conducted to understand the implications of the  menstrual   cycle  and migraines. Migraines are debilitating but with the right medications, we can deal with the symptoms and hopefully in the future we will find ways to fully rid ourselves of the effects of migraines.