Hormonal headaches

March 24, 2020

What are hormonal headaches? Learn the signs and symptoms including how to manage them.

Headaches can be triggered by many things. From what we eat and drink, to how we sleep, as well as stress, genetics and hormones can all cause a headache. And for some people, these can even be a migraine.

As we know hormonal levels change. This can be during a normal menstrual cycle, pregnancy and even menopause. These changes sometimes can cause headaches. Medications including the pill and other hormone replacement therapies can also have an impact, again causing headaches.

Causes

There are many different things that can cause hormonal headaches…

Oestrogen is one of the main female sex hormones. It controls puberty and strengthens bones and is needed for the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. While men do produce oestrogen too, it is more important in a woman’s body, affecting skin, heart and the brain too.

During a normal menstrual cycle, oestrogen levels change, they are at their lowest when you have your period and highest right during the middle of your cycle.

Headaches can be caused by this change in oestrogen – some women experience headaches that occur within a window spanning two days leading up to a period or the first 3 days during a period.

As oestrogen levels change during pregnancy and menopause as well, this too will have an impact on headaches experienced.

Symptoms

Hormonal headaches can often seem very similar to a standard headache or migraine but there are symptoms that appear. This is what helps distinguish them as being hormonal rather than a standard headache or migraine.

These symptoms may include:

  • Acne
  • Constipation and decreased urination
  • Cravings for salt, alcohol or chocolate
  • Hunger
  • Lack of coordination
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Prevention

As these headaches relate directly to hormones and how they are changing within your body, you can seek medical help to try and prevent them from occurring. Discuss your symptoms with your GP who will recommend the best options for you.

Treatment

Quite often the pill will be recommended to help reduce the severity of hormonal headaches. This is due to the fact that the birth control pill helps to even out the hormones in your body. As part of this, it may also be recommended that you skip the hormone-free section of the pills too – this helps to keep your hormone levels more stable during the month. Again, your GP will discuss this with you.

If pregnancy is something you are planning, you are best to discuss all your options with your doctor first.

Another option may be an oestrogen patch – these are more likely to be recommended for perimenopause and menopausal women.
The patch can help as it provides a steady dose of oestrogen over time.

All of the above must be discussed with your GP

Alternative therapies

There are other options that you may wish to investigate which have also been said may benefit headaches. These include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Cold and icepacks on the painful areas
  • Massage treatment
  • Relaxation
    • meditation
    • guided breathing
  • drink plenty of water
  • laying down in a dark, quiet room
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