Headaches in Women: Causes, Types, Treatment

Headaches are one of the most unpleasant sensations that a person can experience. Severe discomfort in the forehead, temples, crown, or back of the head can signal a variety of reasons, ranging from banal overwork and lack of proper sleep to serious ailments that require immediate treatment. But according to the statistics, headaches are more common in women than in men. At the same time, the headache attacks last longer and are much more severe.

What are Headache Causes?

Unfortunately, the reasons for women’s headaches are not completely clear, but scientists have suggested that in most cases, everything depends on hormone level, in particular estrogen. That is why frequent headaches in women often appear at reproductive age, especially during ovulation and menstruation.

Headache during menstruation

A fairly large number of women suffer from headaches during menstruation. This condition is called cephalalgia. This is due to a sharp decrease of serotonin in the brain when the vessels contract and then expand strongly, causing an attack of pain. In addition, at this time, the pain threshold decreases, exacerbating suffering. This health condition is very unpleasant for any woman and can be expressed by the pain of varying intensity. Some women experience a completely tolerable and intermittent feeling of pressure inside the head, but others can suffer from pronounced migraines that can temporarily deprive them of working capacity. Headaches are often accompanied by nausea, changes in smell and taste perception, noise sensitivity, mood instability, and sleep disturbances. In this case, medical help is needed.

Menstrual pain can disturb in the period 2 days before menstruation and 3 days after it. Usually, cephalalgia does not pose a health risk, however, with recurring headache episodes, it’s necessary to consult a doctor. It’s not recommended to endure the pain.

The reason for this condition is a sharp change in the hormonal background during the menstrual cycle. This is especially typical for women suffering from disorders of the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, which regulates hormone production. The main causes of headaches during menstruation include the following:

  • a significant decrease in progesterone levels;
  • change in water-salt balance;
  • a change in the level of prostaglandins;
  • Chronic iron deficiency, which is common in women who experience heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding, is frequently accompanied by menstrual cramps.

Eating disorders with an excess of carbohydrates and saturated fats in the diet and excessively frequent consumption of coffee are also severe triggers of a headache during menstruation. Cervical osteochondrosis, blood clotting disorders, and head and neck injuries also increase the likelihood of menstrual cephalalgia.

Headache while taking oral contraceptives

Another cause of migraine is the use of hormonal contraceptives and the resulting decrease in the level of female estrogen hormones. The cause of frequent headaches in women of childbearing age may be the regular use of birth control pills, or rather, the synthetic hormones they contain. Unpleasant sensations can disturb a woman while the body is getting used to the drug. This is about three months, however, if the side effects are severe and significantly reduce the quality of life, you should consult a doctor to choose another remedy.

Headache in pregnancy

The causes of headaches in women during pregnancy and lactation may be different. In some cases, they are associated with a change in the hormonal background, in others, with an exacerbation of cervical osteochondrosis. Only a specialist can understand the true causes of a pathological condition. The complexity of this situation lies in the fact that during pregnancy and breast feeding, the choice of drugs is very limited. Therefore, only a doctor can prescribe the correct treatment.

Headache with menopause

The decrease in estrogen levels during menopause is caused by the restructuring of the female body and, first of all, by a decrease in estrogen levels. A depressive state and a severe psycho-emotional state also provoke headache attacks. In addition, many women experience increased blood pressure during menopause. This is another cause of headaches, often in the back of the head. It is not always possible to cope with bouts of pain with the usual pills. There is only one way out — to balance the hormonal status.

A negative role is also played by the habit of taking severe painkillers all the time. Scientists suggest that too frequent use of analgesics disrupts the normal functioning of the pain centers in the brain and can cause chronic headaches.

Anxiety headache

The female brain is more excitable and sensitive. That’s why, very often women suffer from anxiety. They worry about every little thing and don’t know how to distract and relax. A common female ailment, migraine, begins with hyperexcitation of brain cells — the so-called cortical depression. Moreover, the pathological process can cause the most imperceptible deviation from the usual way of life. Studies have shown that in males, cortical depression begins much less frequently than in females (their brain sensitivity threshold is 2–3 times higher).

How to Treat Headaches

Managing headaches with medications can be an effective approach to alleviate pain and diminish symptoms. Various types of medications can help address headache discomfort. It is crucial to consult a healthcare professional before using any medication, as they can recommend the most suitable treatment for your specific headache. Here are three examples of medications frequently used to address headaches:

  1. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers: Acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve) are examples of OTC pain relievers. These medications can be easily found at many pharmacies, including your neighborhood Canadian pharmacy, and are typically the initial treatment option for mild to moderate headaches. It is vital to adhere to suggested dosages and consult a healthcare professional if symptoms continue.
  2. Triptans: These prescription drugs are specifically created to alleviate migraines by constricting blood vessels in the brain and minimizing inflammation. Sumatriptan (Imitrex), rizatriptan (Maxalt), and eletriptan (Relpax) are examples of triptans. A prescription from your healthcare provider is necessary to obtain these medications, which can be filled at a reliable source like an online rx services.
  3. Preventive medications: For those who suffer from frequent or intense headaches, a healthcare professional may prescribe preventive medications to decrease the occurrence and severity of headaches. Beta-blockers (propranolol, metoprolol), antidepressants (amitriptyline, nortriptyline), and anticonvulsants (topiramate, valproic acid) are examples of preventive medications.

It is essential to discuss your headache symptoms with a healthcare professional and explore the best treatment options for your individual case. They can offer guidance on the suitable medication and dosage, as well as any potential side effects or interactions with other medications you may be using.

What to do for a menstrual headache?

  • Seek medical attention if symptoms are severe. Frequent and severe headaches during menstruation should be a reason to see a doctor, regardless of the age of the woman. Consultation with a specialist is also required when the nature and duration of pain changes, new symptoms join, discomfort persists during the next cycle, and menstrual irregularity.
  • Lead a healthy lifestyle. Women prone to headaches are recommended evening walks, adherence to the daily regimen, sufficient night sleep and physical activity. Don’t forget to drink enough water. It is advisable to limit the diet of foods that are difficult to digest and contribute to fluid retention, and to reduce the number of meals with “fast” (easily accessible) carbohydrates. It is recommended to minimize or eliminate the use of alcohol, try to give up bad habits. You can also try a medical massage of the back, neck, and head.
  • Take medication recommended by your doctor. To relieve headaches, antispasmodics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are often used. With concomitant hypertension, antihypertensive drugs are indicated, and with anemia, a therapeutic diet and iron-containing drugs are usually prescribed. With migraine, the doctor prescribes the correct therapy: anti-migraine drugs, triptans. Medications should be taken only with the permission of a doctor.