Link between estrogen and headaches

13 November 2015
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13 November 2015, Comments: 0

Many women experience headaches might notice a connection with the menstrual cycle. Many women who experience migraines are affected by menstrual migraine headaches which are linked with changes in the hormone levels that occur immediately before and during menstruation.

The hormone mainly responsible for these headache-inducing changes is estrogen. Regardless of the stage of life of the woman, whether she is pregnant, menstruating or entering menopause, the fluctuations in the levels of estrogen might be the cause of debilitating migraine headaches.

Is there a link?

Most women experience migraine headaches. This is why there is a possible hormonal link between migraines and gender.  In studies conducted, it was discovered that since women are more likely to suffer from increased frequency of headaches during menstruation, a drastic drop in the level of estrogens at the time of menstruation can cause headaches.

How does estrogen cause headaches?

Headaches and estrogen

The changes in the level of estrogen during pregnancy can cause headaches in some women but causes reduced frequency of headaches in others.

Recently, it was discovered that a drop in the level of estrogen before menstruation might have an effect on inflammation and neurological pain. In other studies conducted, it revealed that estrogen can affect the blood vessels through the release of nitric oxide.

Women who end up with migraine headaches have an elevated stimulation of the nitric oxide pathway prior to the start of menstruation unlike those who do not experience any migraine attacks. Changes in the blood vessels as a response to the increased release of nitric oxide due to the drop in the level of estrogen can result to headaches during the menstruation period.

Birth control and menstruation

The link amid estrogen and occurrence of headaches is quite evident beforehand and throughout the menstruation period. Since the menstrual cycle is a foreseeable event every month, it is possible to use preventive headache medications before the expected period. It is interesting to note that among many women, the coming of menopause can cure the headaches triggered by estrogen because after the menstruation ceases, the hormone levels stay steady.

Oftentimes, changes in the level of estrogen after using birth control pills can also trigger headaches. Many women actually experience an improvement in hormone-related headaches if they start using birth control pills, but some it might be the culprit.


The changes in the level of estrogen during pregnancy can cause headaches in some women but causes reduced frequency of headaches in others. The level of estrogen increases drastically at the start of pregnancy and stays constantly high. As an outcome of the constantly high estrogen levels, many women experience relief during pregnancy.


The application of an ice pack, massage the muscles at the back of the head, shoulders and neck and over-the-counter pain medications can be used. These are the initial measures for estrogen-related headaches. In case these recommendations are not effective, a doctor should be consulted so that prescription pain medications can be given. Take note that some medications can be taken preventatively during the days before the menstruation is expected to arrive but some can be used when the woman feels that a headache is coming on.

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