Menstrual Migraines: Never Leave Your Abortive Medications at Home

Recently, my husband and I took a short road trip, just about an hour and a half from our home, to spend three nights away. It was our first trip in nearly 18 months due to living in the midst of a global pandemic, and in the days leading up to our adventure, I told my husband I had no idea how to pack. I barely remembered what life with routine travel looked like!

His reminder? Bring only what you need or might need and cannot get at a nearby convenience store.

My long list of medications

When I made a packing list, I found that my medications and abortive migraine treatment options took up more lines than my clothing, shoes, and accessories combined! I was both startled and annoyed by this factor.

A menstrual migraine wasn't on my mind

I am not in a season of life where I can take preventative migraine medication, which means that all of my treatment options are in the event that a migraine begins. Personally, my non-hormonal-related migraines have felt minimal lately, and I was two weeks into a new package of birth control (aka in the middle of my menstrual cycle), so I didn't think a menstrual migraine could be on the horizon.

Turns out, my body was confused.

I woke up to an attack

I woke up the first morning in our sweet b'n'b with my head throbbing. It was 5 am, and I reached into my suitcase, so grateful to find that I had packed about 75% of my migraine options. While I was without my headache hat or large ice packs, I did have three options of oral medications, three backup injections if things got dicey, my Nerivio device, and my TENS unit.

I took Maxalt and curled back up in bed, placing a pillow over my eyes to block out the ambient light.

It continued through the morning

At 8 am, I woke up in more pain than before. I took another Maxalt, followed by an anti-nausea medication (Zofran), and went back to sleep.

By 11 am, I felt completely helpless.

My abortives weren't working

At that point, my first-line oral medication had done nothing. Not one single thing. I had two other choices, but I didn't feel confident in either of them. So, I reached for a ketoralac injection. I've written before about this abortive treatment option and how grateful I am that it is part of my treatment plan.

The pain came back not much longer

Within an hour of the injection and a hot shower, I could keep my eyes open and my head off the pillow. But, a few hours later, the throbbing was back. Instead of taking it lightly, I used another injection, knowing that I needed something immediate to abort this migraine at all costs.

When I was thinking clearly, I wracked my brain. I couldn't figure out what had triggered this migraine.

Did my menstrual cycle trigger the attack?

It wasn't until the next day, 24 hours after my migraine began that my body clued me in. I was struggling with a menstrual migraine, even though I was not due to have gotten my period, and in fact, my oral contraceptive should've prevented that completely.

What did I learn?

Here's what I learned in this situation:

  1. Periods aren't always predictable, even when you think they should be.
  2. If you struggle with menstrual migraines, it's best to never leave home for more than a few hours without at least one abortive medication option.
  3. If your abortive medications do not work, or do not keep your migraine away, reach out to your doctor. Even if it's the weekend. They'll have staff that can help you navigate what comes next.

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