My first experience of a migraine was at the age of nineteen. I had a pain around my right eye for a few hours. I think I ignored it to carry on with what I was doing. At dinner time, around five o’clock, eating food made the pain much worse. It was also painful to concentrate and hold a conversation.
I’ve had them on and off since. My mum, my nan, my great-grandmother, my aunt and cousin also deal/dealt with them, as many women do each month around menstruation. My mum would always need to lay down in a dark room for two days. She used to vomit too. It was regular as clockwork. I remember being looked after by my older brother when I was very little. He gave me custard creams for breakfast!
I had migraines on and off during my twenties and early thirties. I was so thankful I didn’t get them every month. They confused me a little as I wasn’t sure they were actually migraines. I didn’t experience coloured lights and I never vomited. I just had unbearable pain through my right eye and on the right side of my head. Generally I had them for four days on average, towards the end of my period. The first time I had one for seven days I booked an appointment with a GP. He diagnosed me with Cluster Headaches, informing me it was a new headache each time I woke up. Most headaches, in my experience, can be slept off. These can’t. It’s so disappointing when they wake you during the night, or you realise when you’re waking up that you still have it.
To me they are not as strong as my pelvic pain. Usually I am able to carry on through the day. With practice I have learnt to distract myself during the day. (This is with being self-employed, working at home and being able to control my environment). Generally I will try to wait to take pain relief until around five o’clock. Sometimes I need to go to bed by 8pm as there is nothing more I can do. As the medication I currently take already causes drowsiness, I don’t want to add another one with the same effects. I cope okay with the medicine I take and the effects they have on me. If I add another medicine it may cause me so much tiredness that I wouldn’t be able to function. I work hard to maintain the balance I took so long to achieve.
As I am approaching, or in the early stages of peri-menopause, I have recently been experiencing migraines at the start of a period. The negative side to this is an increase in my pain. A migraine on top of horrendous pelvic pain is a challenge. I get pain in my legs, back, bladder, bowels, ovaries, pelvic floor. So a migraine as well as this is not good (massive understatement!) The positive side however, is that the pain medication I take for endo also works for my migraines. This creates a decrease in the amount of pain medication I need. So I am choosing to see the experience of a migraine at the start of my period as a good one!
One wierd thing – I also have migraine pain in my throat!? Does anyone else get that? I would love to hear your experience with migraines and how you deal with them.
THE MIGRAINE TRUST states that studies show about menstrual migraine:
- They are caused by falling oestrogen levels
- They are most likely to occur in the two days leading up to a period
- There is no aura
- They can last longer than non hormonal migraines
- They are thought to affect less than 10% of women
Menstrual Migraines are also thought to be caused by the release of prostaglandin during the first two days of a period.
PATIENT.INFO states there are two patterns:
- PURE MENSTRUAL MIGRAINE: Where migraines are only experienced around the time of a period. One in seven women experience this.
- MENSTRUAL-ASSOCIATED MIGRAINE: These migraines occur around periods AND at other times. Six in ten women experience this type.
- Menstrual migraines improve during pregnancy due to the higher levels of oestrogen throughout.
- Menstrual migraines are experienced more through peri-menopause due to oestrogen level rising and falling.
- Once menopause has been reached and oestrogen levels remain low, there should be an improvement in migraines.
- Oestrogen Supplements
- Contraceptives (These are not allowed to be used if migraines with aura are experienced)