You may have always been prone to a headache or two around your time of the month.
But recently, they’ve got worse. You feel a bit woozy and sick and one side of your head is pounding.
Why is a 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.
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.
TOP TIPS FOR YOU
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 menopause 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 trigger of menopause headaches, 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.
TOP TIPS FOR OTHERS
Headaches and migraines aren’t fun at any stage in your life, but put them on top of a pile of other menopausal symptoms and she’s not having a good time.
This is how you can take care of her and her sore head.
OUR ADVICE TO HER
We’ve suggested she avoids possible triggers like caffeine, cheese or products containing artificial sweeteners. Bright lights and loud noises could also set her off.
Decent quality sleep and ‘me time’ is important too to dial down her stress and get her body into a relaxed rhythm. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) also helps some women with migraines.
More info on all of these top tips is on the ‘For her’ section of this page. Take a look.
ASK HER TO EXPLAIN
You may have had a headache a hundred times, but have you had a menopausal headache?
Don’t assume you know what her migraine feels like. Gently ask her to explain the effect it is having on her physically and emotionally.
You may not be able to do anything to make her feel better. But she may not want answers, she may just need to talk – and be properly heard. Switch your listening ears on and give her your full attention.
MAKE HER COMFY
Is there anything you can do to make her more physically comfortable?
It could be as simple as opening a window, running a bath, getting her a glass of water or letting her stretch out on the sofa. What does she need? Why don’t you ask her?
GIVE HER SOME BREATHING SPACE
No, we’re not saying leave her 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 and mindfulness apps like Calm 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 the 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 the pressure off her.
ENCOURAGE HER TO SPEAK TO A DOCTOR
If her headaches have been going on for a while or seem to be getting worse, gently encourage her to speak to a GP. You could even offer to go to the appointment with her to show your support.