When Hormones Go Haywire: Headache and Your Estrogen Levels

Posted by on Oct. 10, 2012
When Hormones Go Haywire: Headache and Your Estrogen Levels

Half of the women who are diagnosed with migraine in the United States complain of hormonal headaches debilitating headaches that occur before or during a menstrual period. These headaches are reported to be more brutal than the usual attacks as they are fueled by the fluctuating levels of hormones progesterone and estrogen, two hormones that may have a hand in the headache-related chemicals in the brain.

Experts confirm that high levels of estrogen may eradicate or lessen headaches, while low levels of estrogen may trigger attacks. Unfortunately for most women, estrogen levels are notoriously unpredictable and easily fluctuate for the slightest reasons. Below are some of them:

  • Menstrual period. Estrogen and progesterone levels drop precariously before and during a woman’s menstrual period. This drop in the hormonal levels causes the uterus to shed its lining and the unfertilized egg from its walls, triggering menstruation.
  • Oral contraceptives. Most women on the pill complain of debilitating headaches during the inactive (placebo) pills that are taken days before their menstrual period. These placebo pills have the same effect of lowering estrogen and progesterone levels to trigger menstruation.
  • Pregnancy. Motherhood is one of the proudest achievements in a woman’s life. However, pregnancy causes the hormones to fluctuate indefinitely. Estrogen levels are high at the start and throughout the duration of a pregnancy. After the delivery however, most women experience excessive stress, sleepless nights, irregular sleeping patterns, and depression. This causes an abrupt drop in estrogen levels, which makes them susceptible to hormone headaches.
  • Menopause. Menopause cause fluctuating hormonal patterns as the body adjusts to eventually stop its monthly bleeding. These irregular hormonal levels are more pronounced during perimenopause (the years leading to menopause), as the length of time between periods grow longer and longer. Oftentimes, hormone headaches caused by menopause and perimenopause improve once the body settles and the menstrual period disappears for good. However, some women experience low levels of estrogen throughout and after the process, feeling no reprieve from the pain even after their monthly bleeding stops coming.

Some women are more sensitive to the effects of hormonal changes in comparison with other women. If you experience debilitating hormone headaches frequently, now is a good time to contact your doctor.


[Photo Credit: nanny snowflake on Flickr]

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