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.