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How Hormones Can Trigger or Contribute to Migraines

Hormones are sometimes portrayed in a lighthearted (if often derogatory) method. They’re positioned as the rationale the pregnant girl cries, {the teenager} recoils in angst, and the premenstrual girl eats ice cream straight from the gallon. Results on temper apart, nevertheless, hormones are important for all times. Amongst many issues, they’re additionally the rationale a being pregnant might be sustained, why youngsters develop, and the way our our bodies stability the electrolytes vital for survival. And in some ladies and different individuals with feminine anatomy or physiology, hormones even have a extra sinister facet: They will trigger or contribute to debilitating migraines.

Consultants In This Article

  • Katy Munro, MBBS, senior normal practitioner headache specialist the Nationwide Migraine Centre, host of the Nationwide Migraine Centre’s Heads Up podcast, and creator of Managing Your Migraine
  • Navya Mysore, MD, household doctor and nationwide program medical director of sexual and reproductive well being at major care supplier One Medical
  • Rashmi B. Halker Singh, MD, neurologist and affiliate professor of neurology at Mayo Clinic with a particular curiosity in understanding the gender variations in migraine

In childhood, individuals of each sexes are at equal threat for migraine assaults, however after puberty, ladies are two to a few occasions extra doubtless1 to expertise them. And in accordance with the American Migraine Basis, ladies are 3 times extra doubtless than males to dwell with migraines, with their first assault typically occurring across the time they get their first interval.

A feminine particular person’s hormonal state is not going to solely fluctuate in month-to-month cycles, but additionally all through their lifetime, with adjustments like being pregnant, postpartum, perimenopause, and menopause. And with all of those adjustments, migraines (and the chance for having an assault) can change, too.

“Migraine is a genetic situation, however whether or not you truly get the assaults additionally depends upon numerous completely different epigenetic elements…and a kind of is estrogen.” —Katy Munro, MBBS, headache specialist on the Nationwide Migraine Centre

To make certain, migraine is a largely genetic situation, says normal practitioner Katy Munro, MBBS, a senior GP headache specialist on the Nationwide Migraine Centre, in the UK, and creator of Managing Your Migraine. (Technically, migraine is the situation, and a migraine assault is the results of the situation.) “Sure genes give your mind a vulnerability to have migraine assaults,” she says. “However whether or not you truly get the assaults additionally depends upon numerous completely different epigenetic elements, or elements inside and outdoors your physique [including lifestyle and environmental variables], and a kind of actually highly effective elements is [the female sex hormone] estrogen.”

Dr. Munro clarifies that whereas the widespread notion of migraine is that it’s only a “dangerous headache,” it will probably embody much more than that. Some individuals with migraine don’t even have a debilitatingly painful headache; they could have different non-headache signs2 like mind fog, nausea, or neck and shoulder ache (or, extra doubtless, some mixture of those signs).

Normally, individuals with migraine have a mind that’s extra delicate to alter, says Dr. Munro. Issues like an excessive amount of or too little sleep, or a spike in blood glucose ranges3 can contribute to the event of a migraine assault. It isn’t typically only one factor that can set off a migraine, she provides; it’s a mixture of triggers stacking on high of each other that begins the roll of an assault, and amongst them are varied, typically inescapable adjustments in feminine reproductive hormones.

How hormones may cause or contribute to migraines

One concept posits that the fluctuating hormones of the menstrual cycle may simply irritate or set off the naturally delicate migraine mind, placing ladies at larger threat of a migraine assault.

It’s additionally doable that in some individuals with migraine, faster or extra precipitous drops in estrogen4 on the finish of their menstrual cycle could make the mind extra delicate to prostaglandins, or hormone-like chemical substances tied to ache and irritation, says Dr. Munro.

Some analysis has proven that transgender ladies on estrogen remedy are extra prone to have migraines than cisgender males5, and conversely, that transgender males on testosterone remedy have fewer migraines than cisgender ladies—all of which highlights the position of fixing ranges of estrogen in the case of the chance of a migraine assault.

Throughout menstruation

Estrogen and progesterone fluctuate all through the menstrual cycle, with each hormones sometimes plummeting on the very finish of the cycle, previous to the beginning of menstrual bleeding (and of the subsequent cycle). “What the research appear to point is that it is falling ranges of estrogen on the finish of the menstrual cycle6 which might be significantly highly effective in aggravating the vascular pathway that triggers migraine assaults,” says Dr. Munro.

“Falling ranges of estrogen on the finish of the menstrual cycle are significantly highly effective in aggravating the vascular pathway that triggers migraine assaults.” —Dr. Munro

Certainly, of the ladies who expertise migraines, about 60 to 70 p.c discover a connection between their migraines and menstruation, seeing an uptick of their migraines on the times main as much as their interval and/or in the course of the first three days of their interval, when estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest.

Analysis reveals that about 2.7 p.c of individuals have pure menstrual migraines7 (PMM), which means they solely have migraines across the time of their interval, whereas 4.6 p.c have menstrually associated migraines (MRM), which means they get migraines extra ceaselessly round their interval but additionally have them at different occasions within the month. “We don’t totally perceive why some ladies get pure menstrually associated assaults and others have assaults each round menstruation and at different occasions within the month,” says Dr. Munro. “It’s a part of the complexity of migraine that makes it a problem for the person to seek for their very own resolution.”

Hormonal contraception

As a result of the migraine mind is, once more, delicate to alter, fluctuating estrogen ranges is usually a set off for extra migraine assaults, whereas secure estrogen ranges could scale back the variety of assaults. Consequently, hormonal contraception could both enhance or lower the frequency of migraine assaults, largely relying on whether or not it’s inflicting kind of hormonal change than the particular person’s baseline, says household doctor Navya Mysore, MD, who’s a power migraineur herself and the nationwide program medical director of sexual and reproductive well being at One Medical. “It actually depends upon the affected person and their response to the contraception.”

Dr. Mysore provides one vital notice: Mixed hormonal contraception—which comprises each estrogen and progesterone—is contraindicated for individuals who get migraine with aura (or short-term visible or different sensory disturbances that happen earlier than a migraine assault strikes) as it will probably enhance the chance of stroke. (Notice that every one hormonal IUDs are progesterone-only, which means they’re thought of secure for individuals who expertise auras8.)

For individuals who get migraines with out aura, nevertheless, “it could be value attempting a hormonal contraception methodology [containing estrogen] to see if it would assist, particularly in the event you discover that your episodes are round ovulation or proper earlier than getting your interval,” says Dr. Mysore.

Being pregnant

“Being pregnant is a time the place hormones are sometimes secure and never fluctuating,” says neurologist Rashmi Halker Singh, MD. It is not uncommon for migraine assaults to proceed in the course of the first trimester of being pregnant, “as a result of hormone ranges are persevering with to alter and construct,” she says. However within the second and third trimesters, the vast majority of individuals with migraine will discover a lower of their migraine assaults9.

That stated, there’s one subset of individuals with migraine who could not expertise this pregnancy-related dip: those that get auras, who’re truly extra prone to be triggered when in a excessive estrogen state like that of being pregnant, says Dr. Halker Singh. (For a similar cause, some individuals who have by no means had an aura with their migraine assaults may also begin .)


In a examine that adopted ladies with a historical past of migraines throughout and after being pregnant, 55 p.c observed a return of their migraines inside the first month postpartum. The massive drop in estrogen and progesterone post-birth is probably going answerable for that resurgence of migraine assaults, says Dr. Mysore. On account of this main hormonal swing, ladies who’ve by no means skilled a migraine earlier than can also begin experiencing them within the postpartum interval.

It’s not simply the hormones that enhance the chance for migraine assaults in the course of the postpartum interval, although: That cute child can be answerable for the sleep deprivation, the stress, and the truth that dinner is likely to be a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup washed down by the chilly espresso you by no means bought an opportunity to drink in the course of the day. Such behavioral and life-style adjustments—like lacking out on sleep and skipping meals—fall into the bucket of widespread migraine triggers themselves.

Whereas it’s true that breastfeeding could have a protecting impact in opposition to migraine assaults12 (as a result of methods wherein lactation retains estrogen ranges regular and delays the return of menstruation), the exhaustion and stress that may come together with it could negate these advantages13.


Perimenopause is the time throughout which the physique transitions to menopause, and ranges of reproductive hormones (like estrogen) start to drop. It typically begins when an individual is of their forties however can begin earlier or later. The related lower in estrogen ranges—which regularly happens erratically all through the transition—can actually lead to an uptick in migraine assaults, says Dr. Halker Singh.

However Dr. Munro factors out that simply as in postpartum, it’s not solely the hormones that may trigger migraines to surge throughout this part of life; it can be the associated life-style and behavioral adjustments. Within the case of perimenopause, you is likely to be coping with issue sleeping or the stress of massive life adjustments (maybe a job promotion), the lack of an aged guardian, or parenting a youngster.

However don’t lose all hope: In lots of circumstances, migraine assaults do lower in menopause (extra on that beneath). Then once more, the median size of perimenopause is 4 years14; and for some unfortunate souls, it will probably last more than 10 years.


Menopause is technically outlined because the cut-off date 12 months after an individual’s final menstrual interval, when their reproductive capability has ended. After the erratic fluctuations of perimenopause, hormones are likely to stage out in menopause, and for a lot of, migraine assaults lower because of this. Even for these in whom migraines don’t disappear fully, Dr. Munro notes that “they might be simpler to deal with or much less troublesome [during menopause.]”

When you could search hormone alternative remedy (HRT) with the approval of a health care provider to deal with menopause signs that may contribute to migraines—like sizzling flashes, evening sweats, insomnia, and plenty of others—the usage of HRT may also trigger extra migraine assaults by triggering hormone fluctuations, says Dr. Munro, so it’s vital to work with a specialist to search out the proper medicine for you.

Are different hormones answerable for triggering migraines?

Estrogen holds a whole lot of energy in the case of triggering migraine assaults, however it isn’t the one hormone that may wreak havoc. Contemplate how adrenaline and cortisol can spike throughout disturbing conditions, says Dr. Munro, and the way stress can contribute to migraine assaults.

However whereas some individuals expertise migraine assaults whereas they’re stressed, others discover that they get the assault after the disturbing state of affairs resolves, says Dr. Munro, main her to conclude that it is much less concerning the specific hormone in play, and extra about fluctuation: “When something in your physique is a bit off-kilter, you then’re extra prone to have the vulnerability of getting migraine assaults.”

Normally, “migraine adjustments all through life as a result of the whole lot adjustments all through life,” says Dr. Munro. “Migraine is the way in which that the mind processes change, and so with our physique and our surroundings and our life stressors altering, the mind reacts to that.”

Properly+Good articles reference scientific, dependable, latest, strong research to again up the knowledge we share. You possibly can belief us alongside your wellness journey.

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  7. Vetvik, Kjersti Grøtta et al. “Self-reported menstrual migraine within the normal inhabitants.” The journal of headache and ache vol. 11,2 (2010): 87-92. doi:10.1007/s10194-010-0197-0
  8. Edlow, Andrea G, and Deborah Bartz. “Hormonal contraceptive choices for ladies with headache: a evaluation of the proof.” Critiques in obstetrics & gynecology vol. 3,2 (2010): 55-65.
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