Question

Why do I always get migraines when I’m on my period? Is there anything I can take to prevent these headaches?

Answer

Migraines are a fairly common experience when you’re on your period. A migraine is a severe form of headache that can cause pulsating, throbbing pain, usually on one side of the head, which can last up to 72 hours. A person having a migraine may experience sensitivity to light and sound, have nausea, and be temporarily disabled from the pain. Migraines are more common in women, and about 60% of women report getting migraines just before their periods, known as menstrual migraines.

Women who take birth control may be at a greater risk of developing these migraines, as many birth control pills contain estrogen, which increases a woman’s estrogen level. With higher levels of estrogen in women who take birth control, there will be a steeper drop in estrogen compared to women who are not on birth control. This steeper drop results in an increased risk of menstrual migraines. Women currently on the pill may be able to reduce their chance of experiencing migraines during their period by switching to either a low-dose estrogen or progesterone-only pill, which would reduce the potential drop in estrogen directly before their period. For some women, an additional option is to take continuous birth control without having a period (no placebo pills). If you skip your period by taking your birth control continuously, you should not experience a steep drop in your estrogen levels, thus preventing menstrual migraines.

For many women, over the counter pain medications such as Motrin (Ibuprofen) or Aleve (Naproxen) can manage most migraine pain. If these medications don’t relieve enough of your pain, your doctor may prescribe you medications that have been found successful in treating migraines. Some women have found magnesium supplements and acupuncture are beneficial in preventing migraines.


The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained on or available through this website is for general information purposes only.


The continued availability of external resources is outside of the NWHN’s control. If the link you are looking for is broken, contact us at nwhn@nwhn.org to request more current citation information.