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Menstrual Headaches

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last review date: November 2010

A woman’s monthly menstrual cycle stirs up a variety of symptoms. The influx of hormones during this time can be blamed for causing:

Menstrual headache often occur before, during or after the monthly period. The headache may also happen during ovulation—when the woman’s body releases an egg from the ovary.

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Headaches during menstrual cycle as well as menstrual migraines are usually caused by the female hormone estrogen. During the menstrual cycle, the female sex hormones rise and fall. Headaches can occur with the fluctuation of estrogen and progesterone, another female hormone.

The hormones that change based on the stage of the menstrual cycle are believed to cause women to suffer more often from several types of headaches - such as migraines as well as tension headaches and rebound headaches.

Incidence of headaches in women

  • Women suffer from migraines three times as often as men
  • 60 percent of tension headache sufferers are women

Hormones and headaches

Women begin having headaches more often than men once they begin menstruating, during puberty. Some women experience their first bout of migraines, when taking oral contraceptives. Hormones are believed to stir up activity in the brain, which may cause stimulate the part of the brain responsible for pain.

Hormones change in a woman’s body when she begins menstruating, uses contraceptives, becomes pregnant, delivers a baby and goes through menopause. These hormonal changes can impact how often and how painful the headaches are.