**As ever, it’s important to note that I am not medically trained and can only write about my own experiences**
What is a Menstrual Migraine?
Menstrual migraines usually occur in the 2 days before the onset of a period or within the first 3 days of a period and the NHS states that “menstrual migraines tend to be particularly severe”. 1
The Migraine Trust2, writes that menstrual migraine occurs because:
There is a link between migraine and falling levels of the hormone oestrogen. The natural drop in oestrogen levels before your period starts is linked to menstrual migraine. Women who have heavy and painful periods have higher levels of prostaglandin (another hormone), which has also been identified as playing a role in a menstrual migraine.
I’ve been living with menstrual migraine now for several years. Whilst I’ve tried a variety of ways to rid myself of this monthly nightmare, I haven’t managed to find a way of doing so and have only succeeded in lessening the impact.
So, here are some tips for making life with menstrual migraine a little more bearable.
1 – Write it down
Keeping a diary of when my menstrual migraines are likely to be has helped me in two ways.
First, being able to present my GP with information on my periods and when the migraines occurred helped with understanding what was going on and this information was used by my GP to diagnose the migraines as being menstrual in nature.
Secondly, keeping note of the migraines means as I have a fairly good idea when they’re likely to occur. I can then block out the relevant days in my diary and make sure that I don’t book anything for that time period, as in all likelihood, I’ll be bedridden. Doing this allows me to plan things better and also removes the stress of having to contact people and cancel plans when I’m struggling with migraine – it’s one less thing to worry about.
2 – Try Cold Therapy and Darkness
There are a variety of ways to cool down your head during a migraine as cold therapy is said to constrict blood vessels and help reduce the neurotransmission of pain to the brain.
I have tried adhesive cooling patches which you stick to your forehead during an attack but my own experience of these has been that they don’t do a great deal and don’t stay cold enough to make a tangible difference to pain levels.
What I have found more helpful has been a migraine ice cap that you keep in the freezer and pop it on during an attack. It stays cold for much longer than a patch so I find them more helpful. Some caps can also be pulled down over your eyes which is great if you have issues with light sensitivity.
If light is a problem for you during a migraine, then an inexpensive eye mask can be a boon so you can rest in darkness anywhere.
3 – Listen to Audiobooks
If you’re looking for a way to distract your mind from the pain and think about something else, then audiobooks might help.
When my migraine isn’t so severe but I still can’t do anything other than lie in bed, I’ll usually pick something soothing like the Beatrix Potter or other children’s books to pass the time.
4 – Enlist Help Where Needed
If you are in a position to ask someone to assist you when you are in the grips of migraine, then it can be a huge help. It can be useful to specify exactly what you need and when and let the relevant person or people know. This could be practical help like walking dogs or dealing with a delivery, or things like making you a warm drink or filling a hot water bottle, if you find that helpful.
5 – Don’t Forget about Food
Although food may not be a trigger for menstrual migraine, it may be that what you are able to stomach around migraine time changes. If nausea is an issue then it may take a while to find foods that you can actually keep down during a migraine and a lot of trial and error.
Food wise, all I can manage is very bland carbs such as white bread, crumpets and ready salted crisps. So I find it helps now to keep a stash of these items in readiness for the next attack.
6 – Work with your GP on Medication
It’s important to have a good discussion with your GP about what medication options might suit you. Preventative migraine medication hasn’t worked for me due to the side effects, nor have some of the recognised medications for migraine pain relief. Unfortunately, there isn’t any shortcut to trying things out for yourself to see what might work best for you.
I’ve worked with my GP and tried several different combinations of medication over a long time period to help with migraine and have eventually found a combination that works the best for me, as long as I catch the migraine early enough. It’s far from perfect, but certainly an improvement on how I was without any medication at all.
I won’t pretend it’s easy living with menstrual migraine and knowing that you are going to be bedridden and consumed by severe pain for several days each month but I’ve found that the above tips can make life a little more tolerable.
If you experience migraine of any type and have any other tips, then I’d love to hear them!