No one knows exactly what causes migraine headaches, or even what happens in the body and brain when someone has one. One thing that is known, however, is that three times as many women as men have migraines. Many female migraineurs will also confess that their headaches are likely to coincide with the period just before their menstrual period.
A whopping sixty percent of women migraineurs have migraines during their period and during the rest of the month. Fourteen percent only have a migraine headache during their period. Look at the numbers; seventy-four percent of all women migraineurs associate their period with their headaches, and while medical science does not deny the connection, the reason for it is still unknown.
In addition, many women who become migraineurs later in life say that their pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms became much more acute since the headaches began. A study published in the January 2006 issue of Headache confirmed the apocryphal evidence. Women participating reported that bloating, weight gain, breast tenderness, mood swings, back pain, and abdominal cramps all became more severe during a migraine.
The women in the study were given a medication to induce a temporary artificial menopause by halting the action of the ovaries. Even with the hormonal ups and downs of regular periods eliminated, they still reported worsened PMS symptoms during a migraine attack.
The fourteen percent of women who only have migraines during their period are said to have “menstrual migraines”. There is hope, though. For some lucky women, taking a brief course of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, like ibuprofen) for several days prior to their period as well as the first few days of it can stave off a menstrual migraine. Women who want to try this type of prophylactic treatment should discuss the option with their doctor.