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The Link between Migraine and Estrogen Fluctuations

Migraine is a chronic neurological condition characterized by painful, throbbing headaches. Headaches may or may not be accompanied by aura (warning signs) while some people may also experience migraine with aura but without a headache, also known as silent migraine. There is currently no cure for migraines, so the aim of the treatment is to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks and the severity of their symptoms.

Nearly 10% of the population is affected by this condition. With the female to male ratio at 3:1, there is a strong gender bias when it comes to migraines. This disparity is thought to have mainly to do with hormones. There appears to be a link between the rise and fall of estrogen levels and the eruption of migraines. Fluctuations in estrogen levels affect the central nervous system which may trigger a migraine. Although the first attack often happens during the teen years, with the onset of menstruation, the intensity and frequency of attacks typically peak when a woman is in her 40s.

Menstrual Migraines

Migraines connected to menstrual cycle normally occur without an aura two days before or two days after menstruation begins. Most women suffering from migraines experience attacks throughout the month, though a small percentage of women exclusively have these menstrual migraines.

The best strategy to fight menstrual migraines is to create a therapy plan that targets migraine prevention. This plan should help you identify common triggers, such as stress, and provide rescue medications that immediately intervene during early onset of a migraine attack. Reducing intake of salt and steering clear of monosodium glutamate can greatly help to prevent premenstrual bloating and migraine pain.

Migraines during Pregnancy

Some women may experience a decrease in number of migraine attacks during pregnancy, which is due to hormonal changes. Others, however, may notice just the opposite, an increase in the frequency of attacks. It is necessary to work with your headache specialist and obstetrician to determine which medications are safe to take for prevention and relief of the pain associated with migraines during pregnancy. Certain simple lifestyle changes, involving diet, physical activity and stress reduction, can also help you to optimize the joy of pregnancy while minimizing the chances of a migraine attack.

Migraines and Menopause

Approximately two thirds of women report that their migraine headaches improved within a couple of years after menopause while ten percent tend to experience worsening of the condition. About one quarter notice no change at all. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is being selectively given to women who suffer from severe, debilitating hot flashes but there is little evidence that menopausal hormonal supplementation really helps to relieve migraines. Because of migraine sufferers’ variable reactions to hormones, there is no way of telling in advance who will respond positively or poorly to hormone replacement therapy.

Birth Control Pills as a Relief for Migraine Pain?

There are women who use oral contraceptives that find relief from migraine headaches, but most migraine sufferers do not notice any change at all. Some users of oral contraceptives may even experience an increase in frequency of migraine attacks. Moreover, women who suffer migraines with aura may increase their risk of a stroke (brain attack) if they take oral contraceptives.

When you start an oral contraceptive you will soon find out whether it is helpful or whether it has little impact or makes things worse. It is necessary to talk to your doctor before you start taking it. You should start out with the lowest possible effective dose of estrogen. It should be noted here that progesterone is not considered to be a factor that could affect migraines.

Where to Find More Information and Support:
Migraine.com
Migraine.org.uk