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Can Periods Cause Headaches?

Can Periods Cause Headaches?



Can Periods Cause Headaches?

Can Periods Cause Headaches?

Women indeed get more headaches than men, and one of the reasons for this is hormones. So, this is a long way of saying, yes, periods can cause headaches.

Before girls and boys get headaches for about the same amount of time until they reach puberty. When girls start getting their periods, they may get more headaches. Two, perhaps three types of headaches are most commonly associated with the female cycle: hormonal headaches and menstrual migraines. It’s not unusual for women to experience a third headache type around the time they have their periods, and these are often stress-related tension headaches. Tension headaches usually start slowly and develop into a dull pain that feels like someone has put a tight band around your head.1


When do period headaches happen?

Period-related headaches can happen before, during and after your period. All period headaches could be classed as “hormonal” headaches: the menstrual cycle is all about hormones and especially changes in levels of oestrogen and progesterone. However, headaches that happen after your period, especially after a very heavy flow, are usually the result of iron deficiency or anaemia.2,3

Hormonal headaches and periods

As we mentioned, hormonal headaches associated with periods can be triggered by the natural drop in oestrogen level when you menstruate. Before we get to this, bear in mind that the hormonal changes that come with pregnancy, using oral contraceptives and breastfeeding, as well as menopause can also trigger hormonal headaches. However, for this article, we’re looking specifically at how periods can cause headaches.4

Women who experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) during which they may get acne, joint pain, food cravings and mood swings, may also experience head pain. These symptoms, including headaches, are also connected to dramatic changes in hormone levels, especially oestrogen.

Influence of the contraceptive pill

Women who take low-dose oestrogen birth control pills could suffer from hormonal headaches. This is because the pills you take when you bleed – during your period – may contain no hormones at all, and your body experiences a dramatic drop in hormone levels. If this is your experience, talk to your health practitioner about changing your pill.5,6


Menstrual Migraines

Women are three times more likely than men to suffer from migraines than men and this can be linked to their cycles.7 Women who suffer from menstrual migraines may get them both before and after – up to three days after – their periods. Not all women are the same, and as many women will tell you, not every period is the same either. This is why they may not get a migraine every time they have a period because the degree of hormone change may also vary: the bigger the hormonal fluctuation, the greater the chance of a headache.


Two types of menstrual migraine

Women who already suffer from migraines are more likely to suffer from menstrual-related migraines – and with the same symptoms. These include throbbing pain on one side of your head, nausea and/or vomiting, and sometimes, before the headache starts, aura. This is when you get a sensation of flashing, gleams of light, blurred vision, funny smells, numbness, weakness or difficulty speaking.8

The second type of migraine associated with periods is known as a pure menstrual migraine.9 These happen in about 10% of women who suffer from menstrual migraines and are different because

  • They are migraines without aura
  • They only happen during the time before, or just after your period begins
  • They happen more than two-thirds of the time you have your period


Keeping track and what to do

Most women unconsciously keep track of their cycles, but if you notice a connection between your period and headaches, it’s a good idea consciously to track both your period and the headaches on a calendar to see if you’re right.10 If you notice a pattern, consult your health practitioner for treatment. Among the treatments they might recommend are:

  • Going on to, or changing your contraceptive pill, or other hormone replacement therapy
  • Taking medication before you menstruate to reduce the headache pain
  • In extreme cases, using medication to stop the menstrual cycle altogether


Dealing with the pain

Before taking medication, there are home remedies that may be helpful. We often recommend them and they include relaxation exercises, a cold compress cloth to the head and there is another: trying to limit your salt intake as too much salt can contribute to headaches.

When we talked about period pain, we suggested that women who regularly suffer from mild to moderate pain can take Cipladon 1000. This will also work for headaches and milder migraines. Cipladon 1000 is an effervescent paracetamol tablet that you dissolve in water, and which is quickly absorbed.11 Alternatively, and if the migraines are severe, your doctor might recommend triptans or ditans which block the pain signals in your brain.12


Disclaimer: The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.


  1.  What is a tension headache? The Johns Hopkins University [Online] Available from <> 19/09/2022
  2. Doherty, C., 2022 Iron Deficiency Anemia and Migraines. Dotdash Media, Inc. [Online] Available from <> 19/09/2022
  3. Snyder, A.; Ernst, H. (Reviewer) 2018 What Causes Headaches After Periods? [Online] Available from <> 19/09/2022
  4. Headaches and Women: What Do Hormones Have to Do With It? The Johns Hopkins University [Online] Available from <> 19/09/2022
  5. Ratini, M., 2020 (Reviewer) Migraine and Hormones in Women. WebMD LLC [Online] Available <> 19/09/2022
  6. Ratini, M., 2020 (Reviewer) Hormonal Headaches and Menstrual Migraines. WebMD LLC [Online] Available from <> 19/09/2022
  7. B. Lee Peterlin, DO, Saurabh Gupta, PhD, Thomas N. Ward, MD, and Anne MacGregor, MD. Sex Matters: Evaluating Sex and Gender in Migraine and Headache Research [Online] Available from
    <> 19/09/2022
  8. Davis, P D. 2021 Definition of Aura RxList [Online] Available from <> 18 May 2022
  9. Doherty, C., 2022 An Overview of Menstrual Migraines. Dotdash Media, Inc. [Online] Available from <> 19/09/2022
  10. Headaches and Women: What Do Hormones Have to Do With It? The Johns Hopkins University [Online] Available from <> 19/09/2022
  11. Rygnestad, T. et al. 2000. Absorption of effervescent paracetamol tablets relative to ordinary paracetamol tablets in healthy volunteer. European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 56, 141–143. [Online] Available from <> 26/04/2022
  12. Ratini, M., (reviewer) 2020. Hormonal Headaches and Menstrual Migraines. [Online] Available from <> 19/09/2022

Please note the content on this website is not intended to be a substitute to a medical professional consultation.