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Understanding and Managing Period Headache

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Period headaches, also known as menstrual migraines, are a common occurrence for many women or Assigned Females At Birth (AFABs) experiencing menstrual cycles. 

Changes in hormones, Prostaglandin, and Serotonin levels can cause headaches during periods.

These headaches can significantly impact daily life, causing throbbing pain, nausea, and other uncomfortable symptoms.

Focusing on a healthy lifestyle, relaxation techniques, and appropriate pain relief measures can help you navigate your menstrual cycle with greater comfort and control.

This article discusses the reasons behind headaches during periods and how to avoid them.

What Does Period Headache Feel Like

Headaches during or before menstruation can vary in intensity and duration, but they typically share some common characteristics:

Headache Location and Type: Menstrual migraines can often feel like a throbbing or pulsating pain. They are typically located around the temples or forehead. They can be more widespread in some cases.

Accompanying Symptoms: A headache during a period can be accompanied by various other symptoms, such as Nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, and sound sensitivity. 

You might also experience fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.

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  • Causes of Period Headache

    Headache before or during periods is a common period symptom

    Several factors contribute to headache during periods, like Prostaglandins and Serotonin, primarily related to hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle.

    Hormonal Changes

    Two hormones, Estrogen and Progesterone, fluctuate throughout your menstrual cycle. The major drop in Estrogen occurs right before your period begins. 

    This hormonal shift is believed to be a major trigger for headache before period.


    These hormone-like substances are produced in the lining of your uterus (Endometrium). 

    Prostaglandins are involved in the process of menstruation and make the uterus contract and shed its lining. 

    However, Prostaglandins can also affect blood flow and contribute to inflammation, potentially leading to headaches.

    Serotonin Levels

    Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for pain perception, mood regulation, and blood vessel function. 

    Fluctuations in Serotonin levels during your menstrual cycle might be another factor contributing to menstrual headaches.

    Almonds are high in magnesium, a mineral that some studies suggest might help manage headaches. Chewing on a handful of almonds might offer some relief from period headaches.

    Other Contributing Factors

    A woman in stressSource: getty_images
    Woman in stress

    Stress, lack of sleep, and dehydration can worsen headaches in general, and menstrual migraines are no exception. These factors can lower your pain threshold and make you more prone to headaches.

    Management Strategies for Period Headaches

    Diet: Focus on consuming regular meals throughout the day to avoid blood sugar dips. Limit salt intake, as excess sodium can contribute to bloating and worsen headaches.

    Sleep: Getting enough quality sleep (7-8 hours) is crucial for overall health and well-being. Fixing a regular sleep schedule and creating a relaxing bedtime routine promote better sleep quality and potentially reduce headaches.

    Stress Management: Stress is a trigger for headaches, including menstrual migraines. Relaxation activities like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help manage stress and reduce headache intensity. 

    Exercise: Regular exercise is good for overall well-being and can improve circulation. While some women might find gentle exercises like walking or yoga helpful during their period, listen to your body and rest if needed.

    Period Headache Relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen can effectively manage headaches during periods. 

    Some women find relief with alternative therapies like acupuncture or massage therapy.

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    Headaches during or before your period is a normal period symptom. 

    Factors like stress, lack of sleep, Prostaglandins, and changes in the levels of Estrogen, Progesterone, and Serotonin can contribute to headaches during periods.

    Consuming a healthy diet can help regulate your hormonal levels and reduce the frequency and intensity of menstrual migraines.

    Consider calming activities like reading a book, breathing exercises, taking a warm bath, or spending time in nature.

    Feel free to seek professional guidance from your doctor if your headaches start to interrupt your routine.

    If your period headaches are severe, or you experience sudden changes in the usual headache pattern or any other concerning symptoms like vision changes, numbness, or weakness, seek immediate medical attention.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can low iron cause period headaches?

    Yes, low iron (iron deficiency anemia) can contribute to headaches during periods. Iron is essential for oxygen delivery throughout the body, including the brain. During menstruation, blood loss can worsen iron deficiency, potentially leading to headaches due to reduced oxygen reaching the brain.

    How long does period headache last?

    Period headaches can be unpredictable in terms of duration. They may appear just before your period starts and linger for a few hours, or they may coincide with the heaviest flow days and persist until the end of your period.

    Does caffeine withdrawal contribute to period headaches?

    Yes, caffeine withdrawal can lead to headaches during periods for some women. Regular caffeine intake can lead to withdrawal headaches if they significantly reduce consumption around their period.

    Can period headaches worsen over time?

    While not common, some women might experience a gradual increase in period headache severity over time. This could be due to various factors. Discussing your concerns with a doctor to rule out any underlying issues like hormonal changes, developing migraines, or even medication overuse headaches is crucial.

    Can period headaches affect my mood?

    Absolutely, headaches during periods can affect your mood. The pain and discomfort can trigger irritability, frustration, and even depression. Prioritizing self-care, managing the pain effectively, and getting enough rest can significantly improve your mood and overall well-being during your period.

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    Photo of author Janet Fudge
    Janet Fudge is a highly skilled and experienced pharmacologist who serves as a contributing writer for With a strong academic background from a premier US University and a passion for helping others, Janet has become a trusted voice in the pharmaceutical world. After completing her Doctor of Pharmacy degree, Janet embarked on a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry, working with various clients, including hospitals, retail pharmacies, and drug manufacturers. Her in-depth knowledge of pharmacology and dedication to patient-centered care has led her to excel in her field. As a writer for, Janet uses her wealth of expertise to provide readers with accurate, reliable, and up-to-date information on various topics related to medicine and healthcare. Her engaging writing style and ability to break down complex topics into easily digestible content make her a valuable resource for healthcare professionals and the general public.
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