migraines in women

migraines in women

Sudden headache attacks, sensitivity to light and noise, nausea and vomiting – around a quarter of all women have suffered from migraine attacks in their lifetime. Experts estimate that around 300,000 people in Germany lie in bed with migraines every day. Depending on their age, women are affected up to three times more often. While the numbers of male and female sufferers before puberty and over the age of 75 are about the same, significantly more women than men suffer from migraine symptoms in the years in between.

Migraines in women: menstruation is one of the causes

The conclusion that this unequal distribution is due to the hormone fluctuations that occur with sexual maturity is evident. In fact, in about ten per cent of women, there is a strong association between menstruation and the onset of migraine symptoms.

Doctors differentiate between menstrual and menstrual-associated migraines:

  • At least 80 per cent of the symptoms of menstrual migraines occur within the so-called menstrual window. This begins about three days before the menstrual period and ends with it. This form of migraine is complicated to treat. About ten per cent of women suffer from it.
  • In menstrual-associated migraines, at least 50 per cent of migraine attacks occur in the menstrual window. About 45 per cent of all women are affected.


Causes of migraines during menstruation

In general, the drop in estrogen and progesterone levels during menstruation can be seen as the cause. Scientists suspect that the hormone estradiol, which also falls, is the leading cause of migraines. The drop in hormone levels leads to sudden vasodilatation. This stretching of the vessels then makes itself felt in some women as a throbbing headache. Many women are also much more sensitive to stress factors due to hormonal fluctuations before menstruation, which can also lead to migraine attacks.

For the remaining 45 per cent, no connection can be made between a woman’s menstrual cycle and known symptoms of migraines, so the idea that hormones are solely responsible for migraines in women has to be shed.

Treatment of migraine during menstruation

Because science has shown that hormonal imbalances cause pain, physicians have often used hormonal forms of therapy to relieve their patients’ symptoms. However, these symptoms of migraines could only be postponed with this.

Various approaches and medications are now available to treat migraines. Suppose the affected woman not only suffers from headaches but also from nausea and, in particular, vomiting; the active ingredients metoclopramide or domperidone are used as the basis for prescribing further medication. They ensure activation of the stomach and intestinal activity and, in this way, reduce nausea and vomiting.


Which treatment helps against the headache?

Headaches are divided into mild, moderate and severe attacks. The German Migraine and Headache Society (DMKG) recommends taking paracetamol at an early stage. The use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen can also be used to treat migraines.

For moderate and severe migraine attacks, it is recommended to take so-called triptans. These are active ingredients that specifically work against acute migraine attacks. They also relieve other symptoms of migraines such as nausea and vomiting.

More tips against migraines

Since in most cases migraines are triggered by several factors, further measures in addition to drug treatment prove to be effective:

  • This includes, above all, a healthy lifestyle with enough sleep and relaxation.
  • A regular daily routine with fixed times for meals and activities as well as fixed sleeping times can also relieve migraine attacks, as stress, hectic pace and sudden changes are considered to be contributing factors to the attacks.
  • Avoiding certain foods that are said to have a negative impact on migraines can also be helpful. These include red wine,  cheese  and  chocolate .

In any case, you should always seek medical advice to treat migraines.

Migraines during pregnancy

For the majority of women who suffer from migraines, the symptoms improve or even disappear completely during pregnancy. It is assumed that the hormonal changes during pregnancy are the cause. In many cases, however, the symptoms return after the birth of the child.

If pregnant women still suffer from migraines, treatment can be difficult because medication should not be used, especially in the first trimester of pregnancy. Women who suffer from migraines during pregnancy should therefore ensure rest and relaxation, if necessary using targeted relaxation techniques. Acupuncture , gentle massages and lymphatic drainage can also  help against headaches.

After consulting a doctor, the painkiller paracetamol can also provide relief. NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen can also help but should no longer be taken after the 28th week of pregnancy. Taking ASA (acetylsalicylic acid) in the first and second trimester of pregnancy is also possible.

The antispasmodic mineral magnesium and vitamin B2 are suitable for preventing migraines during pregnancy.


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