What is a Menstrual Migraine and how to deal with it?

Eight months after giving birth to her first born, Sneha, a young mother, started experiencing difficult period cycles. Earlier, before getting pregnant, she had a smooth cycle, so when her periods started getting difficult, she thought it was the after effects of child birth. It was only after her son turned one, that she really understood there was something wrong with her body. She started observing cyclical patterns, whereby she became aware that a few days before her periods were about to begin, she would experience terrible headaches which made even getting out of the bed a nightmare! While headaches had earlier been a part of her life, Sneha observed that now, they had grown so intense that she was forced to stay in bed for two-three days.

Along with the splitting headaches, she also experienced severe bloating, nausea and an extreme aversion to light. Petrified by these symptoms, Sneha thought she was suffering from a tumour, and this was the last straw! Sneha decided to pay her gynaecologist a visit. The doctor patiently listened to her symptoms and after asking a few questions, said that it was a menstrual migraine, a phenomenon linked to changing levels of the hormones in the body. Sneha was relieved to have found that it was not a tumour!

WHAT IS A MENSTRUAL MIGRAINE?

Menstrual migraine is a kind of headache, that occurs in consecutive menstrual cycles and can happen anywhere from two days before the start of menstruation to three days after menstruation ends. This type of migraine interferes with the quality of life and causes significant functional disability in most people. The two most accepted reasons for this are believed to be the withdrawal of estrogen as part of the normal menstrual cycle and the normal release of prostaglandin during the first 48 hours of menstruation.

HOW DO YOU DIAGNOSE IT?

Unfortunately, at the moment, there are no tests to confirm the diagnosis and the only way to find if you suffer from this is to keep a diary with a note of your symptoms for a minimum of three months, where you record both your migraine attacks and the days you menstruate.

HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM A HORMONAL HEADACHE?

It should also be noted that menstrual migraine is different from a hormonal headache, both of which are caused by fluctuating hormones. The difference is in the severity of pain, a hormonal headache may be moderate, and result in a nagging ache, whereas a menstrual migraine can result in debilitating pain.

HOW DO YOU TREAT IT?

The line of treatment for menstrual migraine depends on the doctor. In many cases, applying ice packs and trying relaxation exercises have shown to have benefits. Other options are acupuncture and over-the-counter pain medicines, supplements of magnesium, which are said to help in some cases. One is also warned to stay away from foods that can act as migraine triggers, like chocolate, mono-sodium glutamate, processed meats with nitrates, alcohol and caffeine.

According to the National Headache Foundation, menstrual migraine affects about 60 percent of women, which means that it’s a fairly common phenomenon but no one really talks about it!


|| By Sona Singh ||

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