The Estrogen Connection and Migraines

While it's a fact that prior to puberty, boys get more migraines than girls, after the age of eleven it's girls who suffer more migraines than boys.  Women will begin to suffer from migraine headaches at a ratio of three to one over men, with this number steadily increasing until adulthood. It's clear then, that hormones have something to do with the turnabout in migraine headaches among the sexes. Or, maybe it's not clear at all.

While researchers believe that there is a connection between estrogen levels and the occurrence of migraine headaches in women, it is not solely the fluctuating levels of this female hormone that seem to be the culprit. It's normal for hormone levels within women to swing from high to low and back again, as a woman experiences her normal cycle. However, the central nervous system sometimes responds to these changing levels by zapping women with migraines.

Headaches Taper Off With the Aging Process and Menopause

Most women migraine sufferers report having had their first migraine experience at the onset of their teens, around the time of their first menstrual period. The highest incidence of migraine occurs in middle age, at age forty. Most women are glad to find their headaches tapering off with the aging process and menopause.

Plain, old headaches are common during menstruation, but are not always migraines. Menstrual headaches arrive with menstruation, but without aura, between the two days prior to menstruation to within the first two days of blood flow, though they come most often on the first day of the menstrual period. The headaches associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) most often end with the onset of menstruation.

Migraines Tend to Disappear During Pregnancy

Birth control pills or postmenopausal hormone therapy can trigger migraine headaches, but it's interesting to note that migraines tend to disappear during pregnancy. In fact, 64% of migraine sufferers who had a menstrual link to their headaches reported that the migraines went away for the duration of their pregnancies. Those who still experienced migraines during pregnancy experienced them only during the first trimester.

The simple explanation for this phenomenon is that the hormones progesterone and estrogen affect the headache-related chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, which are responsible for migraine headaches and which help regulate how pain messages are received by the brain. High levels of estrogen may make those migraines go away, while lower levels bring them on with a vengeance.

The important thing to know is that there's no reason to suffer in silence. See your doctor for advice if you're suffering from migraines.   

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