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Migraine affects about three times more women than men. One reason for this phenomenon is the link of hormones of menstruation to the occurrence of this debilitating disease.
"The decrease in serum estradiol levels may be one of the most potent triggers of a migraine headache"
According to information gathered by women with migraine, more than one-half of the women questioned stated that their migraines tend to happen on the days just before and on the first day of their periods. An increasing amount of research continues to indicate that menstrual hormones and migraine are related.
One 2000 study based on population showed a significant increase of migraines without an accompanying aura during the first two days of a woman’s period. Also, migraines occurring during the three to seven days just before a woman’s periods tended to last a longer time than other headaches. This study also showed that the lowest incidences of migraines occurred during ovulation.
Migraine and Menstruation Facts
Another study showed an increased chance of having a migraine during the five days just before a period begins. This same study also showed an even more significant risk in the two days just before a period. The highest risk for a migraine occurred during the first three days of a menstrual period. But these women were found to have migraines at other times besides their menstrual periods, too. Less than 10 percent of women have periods that only occur during menstruation. Many health care providers suggest that at least three migraine need to be recorded before a diagnosis of menstrual migraines can be made.
Estrogen, Serotonin, and Menstrual Migraines
The decrease in serum estradiol levels may be one of the most potent triggers of a migraine headache. This reaction may occur because estradiol has several responses in a woman’s central nervous system. The decrease in a woman’s sex chemistry such as serotonin, neurotransmitters, dopamine, opioid peptides, galanin, and neuropeptide Y appears to be the source of the resulting head pain. All these chemical reactions lead to an increased rate of serotonin depletion and reduced endogenous opioid activity which may lead to these intense headaches.
Continuing research remains needed to understand further the relationship between estrogen and serotonin, and how this relationship affects migraines during a woman’s period. Scientists continue to look for the correlation between menstrual migraines and estrogen levels in the hopes of more successfully treating these migraines. Even changes in estrogen levels taken in birth control pills may cause headaches to occur. A reduction in estrogen levels is believed to decrease serotonin levels, which in turn trigger a release of chemicals that cause a migraine, according to a recent theory.
Doctors and women have tried to use contraceptives that contain only progestin in them. Progestin-only contraceptives don’t stop the decrease in estrogen, so they don’t work to prevent these severe headaches. Studies continue as to whether varying types of contraception may work for menstrual migraine reduction. Another concern about using contraception that contains estrogen remains whether the risk of stroke is increased for women who take such products. More research remains needed to determine whether specific contraceptive medications can lessen the incidences of menstrual migraines.
What are your thoughts? Does your personal experience match what was found in these studies?