Medical News Today: Why do you get headaches during your period?

Hormones play a role in headaches because they govern the body’s pain response.

Females become more vulnerable to headaches as their levels of estrogen and progesterone fluctuate.

When a person experiences headaches around the time of their periods, the pain may stem from PMS or menstrual migraine.

Menstrual migraine

A menstrual migraine headache typically occurs before, during, or immediately after a period. These headaches can also occur during ovulation.

Around 60% of females who experience migraine report that menstruation is a trigger for these headaches.

The symptoms may be similar to those of any other migraine headache, though the headaches that occur close to a period may not accompany sensory disturbances.

However, some people do experience auras — such as flashing lights or blind spots in the field of vision, or a tingling sensation in the hands or face — before a menstrual migraine headache.

Other symptoms of a menstrual migraine headache tend to include:

  • sensitivity to bright lights
  • sensitivity to noise
  • throbbing pain on one side of the head
  • nausea
  • vomiting


PMS headaches typically occur before a period begins.

PMS refers to a group of symptoms that 95% of females of reproductive age experience before their periods start each month.

The symptoms usually appear 1–2 weeks before a period starts.

Beyond headaches, symptoms of PMS may include:

  • food cravings
  • tender, swollen breasts
  • fluid retention
  • forgetfulness
  • clumsiness
  • sleep disturbances
  • joint and muscle aches
  • irritability
  • anxiety or tension
  • mood swings
  • depression

Hormones affecting headaches during pregnancy

Because of the link between hormones and headaches, women may be more likely to experience migraine headaches during pregnancy.

According to an article published in The Journal of Headache and Pain, estrogen levels can increase 100-fold during pregnancy, which can influence migraine activity.

Also, it is important to note that a headache can be a symptom of preeclampsia, a potentially serious blood pressure disorder that can affect every organ.

Healthcare providers are usually able to detect preeclampsia during regular checkups. If a woman experiences symptoms, they may include:

  • a headache that persists
  • swelling of the face or hands
  • changes in eyesight
  • sudden weight gain
  • shoulder pain
  • nausea and vomiting

Anyone who believes that they may have preeclampsia should seek medical attention.

Learn more about preeclampsia here.

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