Headaches & migraines

Sign 22

Headaches & migraines - GenM Sign

Menopause can trigger headaches and migraines. Hormonal fluctuations, especially changes in oestrogen levels, can lead to increased frequency and intensity of headaches.

Maintaining a regular sleep schedule, regularly exercising and managing stress with relaxation techniques can help. Try to stay hydrated and avoid known migraine triggers. Magnesium supplements can help reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines.

Why is headache a symptom of menopause? Surely those pesky periods are on their way out, so why do you still have monthly throbbing in the side of your head?

As our bodies move into the perimenopause, the hormones which control our cycle – progesterone and oestrogen – are up and down like yo-yos. These fluctuations can ramp up the intensity of headaches and migraines during this time, leaving you dizzy and nauseous.

If you’re also suffering from other stressful symptoms like mood swings and difficulty sleeping, it’s no wonder it feels like there’s a tiny troll on a rampage inside your head.

The good news is that they won’t last forever. As you move from the perimenopause and into the menopause, most women find they get fewer, less intense headaches.

Our advice and guidance

This is another rather debilitating symptom without a simple cure. While your doctor may be able to help with medication, you might want to manage migraines and headaches naturally. If so, you need to go back to basics and look at your lifestyle.

  • Speak to your GP

    If you’re struggling with perimenopausal migraines or menopause headaches, speak to your doctor. They may want to run some tests to make sure everything’s as it should be and offer you a prescribed medication to help with the pain.

    Some women find Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) helps reduce migraines, but if you’re taking HRT and still suffering from headaches three months in, let your GP know.

  • Keep a food diary

    Certain foods may trigger migraines, such as caffeine, cheese or products containing artificial sweeteners.

    Keep a simple food diary across the course of a month to see if you can identify any trends after you’ve eaten specific ingredients. Note down the days you struggled with headaches or migraines, and the times they started.

  • Avoid physical triggers

    This means things like bright lights or loud noises. If you know these can set you off and you sense you could be on the edge of an attack (some women say they see a kind of ‘aura’ around them or objects) it’s time to hide in a dark, quiet corner.

    Yep, we see you. Put the phone down and go shut your eyes for half-an-hour. Whatever you are doing can wait.

  • Get some ‘me time’

    Stress is another headache trigger, so if you’re trying to spin too many plates it could be time to reassess your commitments to others to make one to yourself.

    Then, once you’ve got some new-found time on your hands, what should you do with it? Well, whatever makes you relax. It could be something more traditional like a massage or a hot bath, or you may want to go like a bat out of hell down at the squash courts.

    As long as you’re feeling smiley and happy at the end of it, we’re right behind you sister.

  • Catch plenty of zzzzs

    Get enough sleep. It may seem like we’re telling you the bleeding obvious, but it really is important.

    Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning to help your body get into a natural rhythm. Switch off the telly and your smartphone before getting some shut eye too, swapping it for a book for a more restful night.

  • Our advice to them

    We’ve suggested they avoid possible triggers like caffeine, cheese or products containing artificial sweeteners. Bright lights and loud noises could also set them off.

    Decent quality sleep and ‘me time’ is important too to dial down her stress and get their body into a relaxed rhythm. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) also helps some people with migraines.

  • Ask them to explain

    You may have had a headache a hundred times, but have you had a menopausal headache?

    Don’t assume you know what their migraine feels like. Gently ask them to explain the effect it is having on them physically and emotionally.

    You may not be able to do anything to make them feel better. But they may not want answers, they may just need to talk – and be properly heard. Switch your listening ears on and give them your full attention.

  • Make them comfy

    Is there anything you can do to make them more physically comfortable?

    It could be as simple as opening a window, running a bath, getting them a glass of water or letting them stretch out on the sofa. What do theyneed? Why don’t you ask them?

  • Give them some breathing space

    No, we’re not saying leave them alone. We mean actually breathe together.

    Slow, deep breaths initiate the parasympathetic nervous system, which has a calming effect and can improve a sore head. Taking time together to practice and improve your breathing means you’re more likely to keep up with it.

    Yoga and meditation are both great, and there are loads of ‘how to’ videos online and mindfulness apps which mean you can practice from the comfort of your living room.

  • Create a weekly meal plan

    It’s really important women who are having a lot of headaches or migraines in the menopause eat a balanced diet and identify their foods that set off their symptoms.

    Planning meals ahead is a good way to get an overview of what you’re eating, while shopping for the ingredients together and sharing the cooking can take pressure off them.

  • Encourage them to speak to a doctor

    If their headaches have been going on for a while or seem to be getting worse, gently encourage them to speak to a GP. You could even offer to go to the appointment with them to show your support.

    If you’d like more information, we have put some further references below for you:

General information

You can also find more general information about the menopause transition at the British Menopause Society and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.