News & Research, Treatment

Migraine and Estrogen Officially Linked

A review of 643 unique journal articles related to estrogen and migraine establishes that the two are indeed linked. My initial reaction to this was “duh,” but stating the fact so plainly helps legitimize further clinical research on the topic.

The article concludes:

Epidemiological, pathophysiological, and clinical evidence link estrogen to migraine headaches. Triptans appear to provide acute relief and also may be useful for headache prevention. Clear, focused, and evidence-based treatment algorithms are needed to support primary care physicians, neurologists, and gynecologists in the treatment of this common condition.

In possibly related news, a study published in an oral surgery journal states that “the affective component of pain my be enhanced during the low-estrogen phase of the menstrual cycle in healthy women.” That is, women are more sensitive to pain from oral surgery when their estrogen is low. Perhaps the link isn’t only migraine-specific, but pain in general.

There’s tons of information available if you want to learn more about estrogen or menstruation and migraine. I recommend ACHE’s women and migraine section and their related newsletter articles (look under headache sufferer subgroups, then under women), and the National Women’s Health Information Center’s migraine section.

14 thoughts on “Migraine and Estrogen Officially Linked”



  2. I had headaches that started in 2007 they got worse and worse up to march 2011. So bad i had to go to the hospital a lot and i was throwing up,had the aura vision and legs went numb in weird spells.Then my doctor just switched me to the depo shot ..was taking tri-sprintec, and now 3 weeks later I feel so fantastic havent had head pain or migraines or anything for 3 weeks.It feels like a miracle, i can finally do things without getting headaches. Try it, or talk to your doctor about your migraines to see if your birth controls doing it.Oh and Propranolol does help too I also take that, and my new doctor gave me a multi vitamin too and I have more energy.

  3. I am 49 and have noticed that I regularly get severe headaches along with pain at the base of my neck, before I menstruate. I’m hoping with menopause all this will go away!

    These headaches last for about a week until my period starts. I find it can be debilitating.

  4. I have been told by women who suffered from migraines that once I would pass through menopause that I would no longer suffer from them. The idea that they are attributed to a drop in estrogen before ovulation and period does make sense….I tried the pro-gest cream diligently as instructed from the health food store and it did seem to help…odd some months are worse than others. Best comment: hope more info in time for my daughter. I do clench my jaw when stressd and really appreciated the info on dental mouthguard.

  5. I had never had a migraine until three weeks after I was put on estrogen replacement–at age 34. After that–on replacement–I had one or two a year, very manageable with imitrex.

    Between ages 41 and 43 I had four pregnancies–three unsuccessful, the fourth great. No migraines at all during pregnancies. Serious and persistent migraines (days to weeks) in the weeks after the untimely end of the first three pregnancies. Also multi-day migraines leading up to SOME ovulations.

    No migraines post-delivery for many months–while I was breastfeeding.

    Now I’m headed toward menopause, and am having persistent migraines before many ovulations and before some periods.

    One theory is that it’s driven by the rate of change of hormone levels, rather than the absolute level. Times when estrogen may drop fast, for example.

    I have a feeling that in ten or fifteen years–when I hope to be long past it!–they’ll understand how all this works, and I’ll say “oh, of course, that makes perfect sense!” Hopefully in time for my daughter to benefit.

  6. I’ve known about the estrogen connection for years, but only just beginning to hear about the fact that many women suffer when the estrogen level is low. I have been plagued with migraines for 30 years, and am at the menopausal stage of life now. I was hoping to be through with these headaches, but that is not the case. With my estrogen being low now, maybe that is the reason that these headaches are still there. While the frequency is less, the intensity is not; and, they seem to come in clumps. Anyone with some medical advice? I do take Propranolol to help cut down on these migraines, and Zomig for treatment.

  7. Tony,
    Pseudo-tumor (cerebri) is not only associated with overweight women, it is also related to Arnold Chiari Malformation. ACM causes terrible headaches, they are usually daily and if not daily, they last for anwhere from 3 days to 7 (daily). You and your wife should do a little research on ACM, it may be something she has a problem with. I have it and hormonal headaches and it’s horrible. I hope she doesn’t have ACM, but if she does the surgery for it may help. Good luck.

  8. Tony,

    I’ve had severe hormone problems since I was in my 20’s–I’m 43 now. I too am overweight–due to my hormone problem I’ve put on about 90 pounds. For many years, I was told the same thing as what you’re suggesting about your wife–that she’s overweight, so she must have too much estrogen. But that’s inaccurate. Your wife is probably estrogen deficient. Yes, there’s estrogen stored in the fat, but it’s not estridiol. It’s a weaker estrogen called estrone, and it does not function as well as estridiol.

    I too was put on progesterone for many years–though my true problem was estridiol deficiency. Progesterone only made my symptoms worse, made me put on more weight and made my severe PMS symptoms and depression much worse.

    I suggest that you check out Dr. Vliet’s books, especially her book called: “It’s In My Ovaries, Stupid.” You can probably pick up a copy for cheap on Amazon or Ebay. Dr. Vliet also has a website at She’s truly the foremost expert in the world in women’s hormones.
    Every woman should read that book.

    Also, you wife might want to check into getting bioidentical hormone pellets put in. Do a Google web search. A lot of sites will come up to give you more information about it.

    I’m going to be starting on them soon, and I’m hopeful that they’ll work better than anything I’ve tried so far. A lot of women say they’re the best HRT they’ve ever used, and the work wonders on hormone related headaches.

    Good luck! 🙂

  9. My daughter is 14(started at 13). Has headaches off and on for years always the same. Migraines. Her period came on with a vengence. She had 12 periods lasting 5 – 7 days inside 3 1/2 months. She has cramping until she throws up, migraines headaches for days, total loss of energy, pms. No one in our family is like this. She was a size 1 when she started all of this. She has been through CAT scans (fine). Put her on birth control and the migraines increased even worse (estrogen). She is very active phsically, sports all year round. Put her on progestrine, had no periods, but made her tired and gained a lot of weight. I can not get her comfortable. She has a healthy diet and very good in school. Any suggestions?

  10. My wife suffers with daily headaches that build till she has to go to the ER for Diladud. She had a full Hysterectomy thinking that was the problem. She’s 36. She’s overweight which I know causes extra storage of estrogen. Her headaches were better during pregnancy which leads me to believe that since progesterone is increased at that time, that maybe the dominant progesterone helped ease the headaches. She’s recently been diagnosed with Pseudo-tumor as well and is on Diamox for that. Lupron (which elevates estrogen at first and then lowers it)helped. During the raising of estrogen part, it sent her to the ER weekly for headaches! Any thoughts out there would be appreciated.

    I’m sorry your wife is suffering so much. Headaches and hormones are so complicated — particularly during pregnancy. My headaches aren’t hormone-related, so I don’t have much experience with the treatment.

    A book that might be helpful is The Women’s Migraine Survival Guide by Christina Peterson:

    Her website has some information too:

    I wish you and your wife the best of luck.

    Take care,

  11. i just want to input my personal experience on migraine headaches perhaps it could help someone else…..I have suffered from these headaches every month for 30 years.

    Recently I went to the doctor for an unrelated problem and was told I had HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE- the doctor immediately put me on medicine for this and I haven’t had a migraine for 3 mos. now.. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!!!!

    That’s interesting. Drugs to lower blood pressure are often used as migraine preventives, but I’m not up on the blood pressure-related research.

    I’m so glad it is working. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you too!


  12. Hi Kerrie,
    I noticed a link to your blog from the ACHE headache forums. I cannot imagine daily headaches. Please consider checking into the NTI dental mouthguard. I have made many of them and they have helped cut back on the headaches of many of my patients. If you clench on your teeth in your sleep, you will send lots of sensory input into your trigeminal nerve. When this nerve gets overloaded, it releases neuropeptides which cause the arteries in your head to swell and this leads to a headache. The NTI cuts down on the input to your trigeminal. Medicine has been ignoring part one of the branches of this nerve because it was considered more of a “dental” thing. There is a website which has information and lists dentists who are familiar with the NTI. I wish you good luck in your journey to control your headaches.

  13. Hey Kerrie,

    Thanks for the links….looks like lots of interesting info there. ALthough I’ve heard of the estrogen-migraine links, I haven’t read much about it. I guess I never seriously considered going off the pill. Then, there is the suggestion that the h/a’s will come back anyway, so who knows? Will read more on this, so thanks for flagging it to me/us again!

    Cheers, Terri

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