Once a month I turn into a hag: A harping, whining hag. Yes, it is all tied into my menstrual cycle and I can deal with it. The part I have serious trouble dealing with though is the monthly migraine that coincides with my cycle. According to WebMD, 60-70 percent of female migraine sufferers report that their headaches are associated with their menstrual cycle.
For me, my menstrual migraines start two or three days before the beginning of my period. The headache starts as a dull ache that I can usually ignore. The day before my cycle starts, though, the headache becomes a full-fledged migraine that makes my head pound, my stomach feel nauseated, and movement, sound and light makes it worse.
According to WebMD, migraines in women are usually triggered by dipping levels of estrogen, which falls to the lowest level at the beginning of the menstrual cycle. Birth control pills may or may not make menstrual migraines worse. Studies have shown that birth control pills with high levels of estrogen may make monthly headaches worse, while birth control pills containing progesterone or very low doses of estrogen may see a decrease in menstrual migraines during their cycle.
For me, past use of birth control pills helped alleviate many pre-menstrual symptoms, including migraines. Currently, my treatment of my menstrual migraines includes taking NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti inflammatory medications) like ibuprofin. I have also found over-the-counter migraine medications that offer a hefty dose of acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine to be effective with my monthly migraines.
Some months are worse than others. With an easy month, the headache is tolerable enough that I can usually work through it while the pain medications take the edge off. During the worst months with the menstrual migraine, the pain meds barely touch the pain and I have to allow time to simply rest and wait it out.
A cold, wet wash cloth on my forehead while I rest in a darkened room also helps alleviate the worst of my migraine symptoms. I have learned that when a really bad migraine hits, it is best for me to make a hasty retreat to my bed for a couple of hours to rest in quiet and allow it to pass. I know my body well enough to understand that a bad migraine will make it hard for me to function, so I remain flexible with my work and family schedule around the beginning of my cycle.