Home > Special Circumstances > Headaches and Migraines in Women

Headaches and Migraines in Women

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 13 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Women Men Health Stress Headaches

For some time headaches and migraines were considered psychologically based and were not thought to be a serious physical condition. Women, as a whole, are generally affected by headaches more often than men and it is possible that this partially explains why headaches have not always received the attention they deserve.

Some studies have suggested that women are more likely than men to be treated with 'psychological drugs' such as sedatives and anti-depressants for headaches and migraines. Women also have special needs and often respond differently to headache treatments. Their response is affected by hormones as well as the often stressful social pressures they face.

Hormones and Oral Contraceptives

Women may experience their first headache during their adolescent years, quite often in conjunction with their first menstrual cycle. The link between a woman's hormones and headaches is a complex one and it is thought that changes in oestrogen levels will trigger headaches. A woman may find that she is more likely to experience a migraine during certain times in her cycle. Non-migraine headaches may also occur and when you add oral contraceptives into the equation, headache and migraine patterns may be further complicated.

Studies suggest that women who have previously experienced migraines may notice changes in their headaches after commencing oral contraceptives. They may find that migraines increase during the week that they don't consume a contraceptive pill. Headaches can, however, also improve and you may find that your migraines actually decrease in severity and frequency. If you do find that your migraines are worse, it is not recommended that you stop oral contraception without seeing your doctor first. He or she may be able to suggest a different oral contraceptive pill or a prescription migraine medication to be used in addition to your birth control.

Not all headaches occurring around the time of menstruation are migraines. Menstrual headaches are those that tend to consistently strike in the time just before, during or after menstruation. These occur when oestrogen levels are very low. Many women find that they regularly experience headaches on the first day of menstruation.

Other headaches can also be a symptom of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) and most women will find that these particular headaches cease when menstruation ends for that month. It is also suggested that the increase in fluid retention that women experience prior to menstruation can cause muscles to ache and may trigger tension-type headaches.

Pressure in Personal Life

With most women working outside of the home, earning less than men and often being the primary caretaker in the family, it is not surprising that women experience more stress-related headaches and migraines than men. Single mothers usually face additional financial pressures that can leave them with severe tension headaches. Regular headaches then result in more stress that again, leads to more headaches.

Depression is also common in women and is thought to be associated with frequent headaches. It's a difficult cycle to break and making the time to see your doctor and obtain treatment can really be a challenge. It's important to realize that as a woman, you're not alone in your struggles to find time for healthcare and there is treatment available.

Looking After Yourself

Women are more likely than men to seek out alternative treatments such as yoga, acupuncture and breathing exercises. Although many of these treatments are still based on anecdotal evidence, the fact that women are investigating alternate ways to handle their pain is a positive step and shows that they are trying to take control of their health. Seeing your doctor is still important but don't forget to research non-prescription ways of tackling your headache pain.

Stress reduction comes in many forms and you may wish to try a recognised alternative therapy or you may simply find more personal ways to relieve tension, such as reading a good book, socialising with friends or taking a relaxing bath. Be creative and look for ways to cope with stress; even just taking a simple and quiet walk outside can have benefits for stress reduction and headaches. Taking time out to address your headaches as well as receive medical treatment will leave you stronger and better able to handle your daily problems.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • bea
    Re: Scalp Pain: What Causes It?
    I have being having pain on the middle part of my head and when it comes I get dizzy pls what could be the cause and what can I…
    10 April 2017
  • Mumof3
    Re: Headache With Pins and Needles: Is This Serious?
    I have pins and needles beneath my feet, it has been there for three days now- and hasn't gone away.…
    25 March 2017
  • Ms. Haider
    Re: Headaches and Eyesight
    I wear soft contact lenses in the day time and take them out only when I'm ready to sleep. Even then if the contacts are out and I close…
    12 March 2017
  • Stassie
    Re: Migraine Classification
    My daughter has been diagnosed with migraine as she has most of the symptoms, so her neurologist said it was a classic one; He prescribed…
    10 March 2017
  • Alexandra
    Re: Headaches After Head Injuries
    I had hit ny head on a table and got a headache and it was getting worse so i went home, in the car i had passes out and my mom…
    10 March 2017
  • Alleycat
    Re: Headaches During The Night
    I have started walking with a headache about an hour after falling asleep.This happens at night or if I am sleeping during the day.…
    10 March 2017
  • Jad
    Re: Headaches and Iron Deficiency
    For the last year I've been getting shooting pains up and down the left side of my head which was diagnosed as trigeminal…
    8 March 2017
  • Stassie
    Re: Headaches Caused by Tensions and Stress
    Hi, My daughter, 16, has been diagnosed with having tension headaches, (via CAT scan and MRI) when she was 11. Since…
    7 March 2017
  • DUNK
    Re: Scalp Pain: What Causes It?
    I have suffered severe eye, scalp, jaw pain for 5 years. The pain has been so bad I have thought about suicide more than once. The…
    6 March 2017
  • "common-cold antenna
    Re: Scalp Pain: What Causes It?
    I've had this pain on my scalp in approximately the same area for a long time ( about 26yrs ). It happens just before I get a bout…
    26 February 2017
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the HeadacheExpert website. Please read our Disclaimer.