More than 25 million Italians suffer from headaches, with women outnumbering men (57% against 43%).

Headaches in women are often linked to the hormonal imbalances that characterize the days before and during the menstrual cycle. According to a survey, 4.4 million women in Italy suffer from the so-called “period headache”.

We spoke about this kind of headache with Doctor Elena Zannoni, gynaecologist and Representative of Conservative and Endoscopic Surgery of Reproductive Age Service at Humanitas.


What is the reason for “menstrual migraine”?

Period headache, whose proper name is “catamenial migraine”, typically begins two days before the period and lasts until the first two/three days of period. It may be very bothersome, with backlashes on daily life.

Catamenial migraine is mainly caused by the physiological loss of estrogens in the days before the menstrual cycle. This leads to a series of consequences at the neuroendocrine level that translate into a vasodilatory effect in the brain, that, in turn, triggers pain as a symptom.

This migraine may also associate with other symptoms (nausea, irritability, decreased mood, concentration issues, back pains), typical in the broader premenstrual syndrome.


How to counter menstrual migraine

Pharmacologically, one may use painkillers and anti-inflammatories together with antinauseants, if needed. It is also important to use a supplement such as magnesium (a mineral salt that opposes some painful syndromes) in the days before or during the menstrual cycle.

Lifestyle plays a fundamental role too: the symptoms may get better if one leads a regular life, eats healthy, reduces the intake of alcohol and coffee, exercises constantly, sleeps regularly and tries to avoid stress.

If headaches are constant and severe during the period, an appointment with a neurologist may be necessary. In this case, it is important to keep a specific journal recording the migraine attacks in order to help the doctor understand and then take better care of those who suffer from this ailment.