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Misery and Maybe Menstrual Migraines

“I’m about to get out of the bathtub, but I’m not sure if I can stand up. If I can I’ll come pick you up. Let me call you back in a couple minutes.” That was my end of the conversation when Hart asked me to pick him up from work yesterday — which was the second day of a horrendous migraine. It was one of those weird moments where I watched myself from afar, thinking how strange those words were. “Normal” people don’t lie in empty bathtubs until they can stand up.

I did make the drive there and immediately relinquished the driver’s seat to Hart. Then came the fun part. I needed to get “feminine care products” (I HATE that phrase, but that’s another subject). I couldn’t send my sweet hubby out on his own to differentiate between an extra-super minuscule maxi pad with wings and an ultra extra-long light-day invisible maxi pad. That’s just too cruel.

In the Safeway aisle, I could barely stand up and my mind was obscured by migraine fog. I stared at the shelves, dumbfounded by the options. Each brand has it’s own name for each type, and each type has some distinguishing feature that does nothing to distinguish it from the rest. There are helpful pictures on the packages, except that every picture is identical. It would have been easier to buy a car in my impaired state than to pick out a package of pads.

Why am I regaling you with menstruation-related stories? Because we all have those can’t cope moments where headaches or migraines or the associate neurological weirdness is just too much. And because I have the sneaking suspicion that some of my migraines are linked with my cycle. My doctors and I have all concluded that the two don’t seem connected for me, and birth control pills have never reduced the frequency or intensity of my migraines, so I’m wary that this is a red herring. But my symptoms have been changing recently, and I would be overjoyed if hormonal birth control could keep some of the misery in check.

Researching this topic, I’ve learned an important distinction. A woman with menstrual migraines only has migraines during her period. If a woman has migraines during her period as well as at other times of the month, she has menstrually related migraine.

Some other important information I’ve found: Studies indicate that menstrual migraine is related to the drop in estrogen that occurs right before a woman starts her period. Diagnosis of menstrual migraine is based on a sufferer’s detailed headache diaries.

That’s all I can handle writing about right now. The fall 2005 issue of ACHE‘s newsletter is devoted to hormones and migraine, so I have a well of information to draw from. But it will have to wait until I’m up to sitting at my computer again.

For more information on menstruation, hormones and headaches, visit the National Menstrual Migraine Coalition‘s site or see the National Headache Foundation‘s hormone topic sheet. Or if you know someone who is a member of ACHE, ask to borrow the latest newsletter.

5 Responses to Misery and Maybe Menstrual Migraines

  1. Julie says:

    Kerrie,
    Don’t be surprised if your hormones change as you get older. I remember clearly saying to a neurologist “I don’t get menstrual migraine.” I think the headache gods heard me and wham! not long after, I started getting menstrual migraine. I was 32. It’s always fun to have a change for the worse in your headache pattern (ha ha!) I’ve tried to take birth control pills twice with disastrous results. I’m amazed that they don’t increase your headache frequency. Well good luck!

    *************
    Thanks for the reassurance. Figuring out the right combinations is like a mirage. I always think I’m almost there and then the picture changes.

    Have you found anything to help your menstrual migraines?

    -Kerrie

  2. dn says:

    “In the Safeway aisle, I could barely stand up and my mind was obscured by migraine fog.”

    I get that same mental fog even though my migraines don’t have severe headache (sometimes almost none). I think non-migraineurs have a hard time understanding that the condition is more than simple pain. The difficulty in thinking clearly, and the frustration that results, is very debilitating.

    *************
    It’s easy to focus on the pain, but you’re right that the symptoms are so much more than that — and sometimes more debilitating than the pain. Access to pain control is very important, but it will be hard for society at large and doctors to accept the severity of migraine and headache unless they understand all the related symptoms.

    I’m surprised I haven’t really addressed this on the blog, but I did mention the other neurological symptoms in my response to question 5 of Molly’s questions — http://www.thedailyheadache.com/2005/11/molly45_are_you.html — and I plan to write something more in depth soon.

    -Kerrie

  3. Molly says:

    I’m impressed you were able to drive, I’m always too afraid when the pain is so bad. I’m on the patch, from which I’ve had better results than the pill… I take it consistently so I only get menstrual migraines every 5 months instead of every month. Of course, now I’m faced with a serious decision, the patch is now on the FDA’s dangerous drug list because of new evidence pertaining to blood clots. Great. Why can’t drug companies be honest with their research!? Is having less headaches worth a very slim but present chance of death?

    *************
    It’s only a mile and half and is on back streets, so I took the chance. It wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done…

    Have you thought about using the vaginal ring instead of the patch? I don’t know if it has the same problems as the patch though.

    -Kerrie

  4. Molly says:

    Incidently, I love that your husband would have gone down “that” aisle for you… I think it’s a mark of true love. My boyfriend offered once, but like you I simply couldn’t let him go through with it.

    *************
    It’s the little things that show love, isn’t it?

    Kerrie

  5. megan says:

    It’s also important to note that women who have migraine with aura should not be on any hormonal birth control pill that contains estrogen… This can increase your chance of stroke by up to eight times (research is still being conducted), but my doctor kicked me off my low-dose estrogen/progestin and put me on a progestin-only pill.

    ********
    I’m so glad that you pointed this out. It’s obviously very important to know!

    K

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