PeriodsPMSWhat Is a PMS Migraine?

What Is a PMS Migraine?


Any day that you have a migraine is a really bad day. For many women, a migraine can be really debilitating. Combined with other symptoms, a PMS migraine can feel like the worst day of your life!

What is a Migraine?

A migraine is a complex medical condition generally characterized by really painful headaches. Other symptoms are known to include sensitivity to light, disturbed vision and nausea. Migraines are not akin to normal headaches which go away just by popping a pill. They can be disturbingly painful.

If you’re someone who gets migraines, you might have notices something peculiar: those migraines mostly hit you just before your period. Why is that?

Migraines in women tend to occur because of a sudden shift in the level of the hormone estrogen just before the start of their menstrual cycle. These migraines are called menstrual migraines or hormonal migraines.

Some symptoms you can look out for before expecting a migraine attack are:

  • A feeling of sleepiness
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Nausea
  • Increased thirst
  • Uterine pain and cramping
  • Food cravings

When migraine strikes, there will be a pounding headache on only one side of the head. The position of the headache changes from one to the next.

How do you know that you have a menstrual migraine?

The only way to determine is to keep a track of the time when your migraines occur for at least 3 months. These migraines generally tend to occur around 2 days before and 3 days after the start of your periods and in at least 2 out of 3 menstrual cycles occurring in a row. Migraines that occur in women only before and during menstruation are known as pure menstrual migraines and they are without auras.

There is a Menstrual Migraine Assessment Tool designed to accurately diagnose menstrual migraines. It consists of a set of three questions that are:

  • Do you have headaches that occur between 2 days before the start of your period until the third day of your period in most months?
  • Do the headaches that occur during this time eventually become more severe?
  • Does light bother you more when you get these headaches than when you don’t get headaches?

If the first question is answered yes, and the either one of the remaining is answered as yes, then you are affected by pure menstrual migraines.

Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) occurs in around 70-90% of all fertile women. The symptoms of PMS include bloating, mood swings, irritability and breast tenderness. When migraines occur along with PMS, it truly can have a devastating effect.

The difference between PMS migraines and pure menstrual migraines is that PMS migraines occur some days before the start of the menstrual cycle up to the first few days of the period, but can also occur during the rest of the month. Pure menstrual migraines only occur during a specific time.

Many women think that PMS migraines are just part of the package that is the menstrual cycle, and don’t think about consulting the doctor. It is definitely not something you have to live with for the rest of your life; it is a problem and certainly not normal. If you are experiencing symptoms of PMS migraines, it is advisable to get yourself checked so that a doctor can help you with them.

Hi, I'm Samantha. I live in Seattle and I develop logistics management software. I'm also a fitness and health advocate and an assistant editor for the AP!

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