I count each month as a victory if it goes by without me getting a migraine! I used to get them like clockwork every four weeks during my period. But I probably only get them once or twice a year since I started practicing an admittedly long list of preventive measures that I'll list out in this blog post for you—and when I do get a headache now, I can usually point to one of these risk factors or preventive measures that I skipped.
Menstrual migraines are caused by a drop in estrogen. When I do get a headache, it's usually on day 2 or 3 of my period, but on occasion has happened once my period was already over and I thought I was out of danger. It's also sometimes happened at the very beginning, before I had a chance to start taking precautions, which is why I now try to be careful in these areas during the week prior to when I expect my period to start.
During the days when I'm at risk of a headache, I...
Stay extra hydrated
Make sure to have my daily coffee so I don't get a caffeine withdrawal headache (but also don't have extra coffee, since that can cause dehydration)
Don't let my blood sugar get too low (i.e., make sure to eat right away when I feel hungry instead of waiting)
Stay cool (lack of A/C in the summer or excess heat in the winter seems to make the headache worse)
Pressure changes can cause sinus headaches for me, and although I almost never get these anymore either, I find that a menstrual migraine is more likely if I've recently flown in a plane or on days when the weather changes from sunny (high barometric pressure) to cloudy/rainy (low pressure).
Especially in those circumstances, I make sure to do all of the above, plus using magnesium lotion on my legs each night (which I do every night at all times of the month), and I also avoid chocolate.
The worst migraine of my life was after returning from a trip (so, air travel) when we'd had wine at the airport on the way home (adding alcohol to the mix) and then I snacked on raw cacao nibs my first day back from the trip, and got my period earlier than expected. It was a headache to end all headaches...
Another memorable one was the second day of a different trip (again, the day after airplane travel). The weather was much hotter than what I was used to, (you guessed it) I had my period, and I want to an appointment where I'd been promised tea and snacks, but when I got to the appointment, my host seemed to forget she ever mentioned it so I ended up taking the train both directions in the heat without any food or drink until I got back to where I was staying (so dehydrated with crashing blood sugar).
What's funny is, I rarely got migraines until I was no longer able to take ibuprofen due to diminished kidney function. Once I stopped being able to take NSAIDs, I actually have started taking better care of my body in an effort to avoid these crippling headaches! My stomach also feels much better now that I don't take so much ibuprofen for a week every month.
I was prescribed naratriptan, but I actually have never taken it yet! It only works when the headache is first coming on, and so far I've never had it with me when I actually needed it!
Do you get migraines? If so, do any of these tips work for you? Any other preventive measures you can add to my list? Leave a Facebook comment below or email me at the address in the footer and let me know!