“From around the time of puberty through the changes of menopause, women experience significantly more headaches than men, particularly migraines”, explains William Rettig, MD.
Having a headache is simply the worst.
They may be invisible but they are real. No matter what, that constant pain can hinder a person's routine leaving them moody and irritated with everything. The WHO estimates that 50% of adults have a headache at least once every year, and 30% of those individuals also experience migraines. And if you think that women tend to have more headaches than men, well, you're right.
According to studies by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), women in the U.S. suffer migraine at a rate three times higher than men. Studies further reveal fluctuations in hormone levels during the menstrual cycle and throughout one’s lifetime could be the reason for debilitating migraine in women. There are stereotypes that this is just a bad headache and one needs to relax. But anyone with migraine can tell it apart from a run-of-the-mill headache.
“From around the time of puberty through the changes of menopause, women experience significantly more headaches than men, particularly migraines”, explains William Rettig, MD, according to Premier Health. The Migraine Research Foundation describes a migraine headache as “typically a severe throbbing recurring pain, usually on one side of the head. But in about one-third of attacks, both sides are affected.” When migraines are triggered by a drop in estrogen levels, it is called menstrual migraines. These headaches can be a result of hormonal fluctuations that result from important life stages, some medical conditions, and even pharmaceuticals unique to women (like contraceptives), per the American Headache Society.
Here are 4 ways in which hormones give us headaches:
It's sad, but the reality is that once girls reach puberty, they are more likely to experience headaches. A study conducted on nearly 900 girls between the ages of 9 and 18 showed that just over half of those who had begun menstruating had headaches during their periods, while 37 percent of all girls reported monthly headaches, whether or not they had started menstruating.
Close to 50 to 60 percent of women’s migraines are menstrual migraines, according to studies reported by the NIH. These can hit during ovulation, or before, during or immediately after a period. Serotonin is likely the primary hormonal trigger in headaches for both men and women. “But, for women, how serotonin interacts with uniquely female hormones like estrogen and progesterone may be the trigger for menstrual migraines,” says Dr. Rettig.
It's almost like being pregnant is also a bane, because about 15 to 20 percent of pregnant women have migraines. More than half find that their migraines occur less often as they get closer to giving birth. Probably the only good thing here is that migraines, while intensely painful for mom, pose no dangers to the developing baby. And, according to Dr. Rettig, “If a woman has a history of migraines, and there are no other health problems, then migraines during pregnancy are usually not something to worry about.”
Again, there's going to be a lot of fluctuating hormones when it gets closer to menopause and that is more than enough to trigger more headaches. Migraines may actually worsen in the years immediately before menopause, called perimenopause.
However, not all hope is lost, and there are treatments that can help relieve your pain. Just consult your doctor about it, and they will surely help you with home remedies as well as medication to make life a bit easier!
“With all the advancements in understanding how headaches affect women at various phases of their lives, and how to treat those, I think we can help many women cope with the discomfort, or even crippling pain, that headaches and migraines bring,” advises Dr. Rettig. “It’s crucial to work closely with your doctor in addressing these problems.”
Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images | ljubaphotoDisclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.