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Menstrual Migraines, like cramps and PMS weren’t enough

I went to bed Tuesday night with a headache.  I get them every so often, and only Excedrin seems to help.  But Excedrin is full of caffeine, so I didn’t want to take one so late in the day.

By Wednesday morning I was making out my will.

I had a migraine so severe that I couldn’t see straight.  Or stand up.  I knew serious trouble was brewing when I couldn’t even stomach my delightful morning coffee.

Fiddledaddy assessed  the situation and sent me back to bed with an ice pack perched on my head.  He came back a while later and announced that he had a diagnosis for me.  As far as I was concerned, I was certain that I had the Swine Flu. The really really bad strain that just kills you.

It seems that Fiddledaddy has been tracking my migraines.  And funny, but they seem to show up right around my menses.  I suspect  he keeps track of that too, just so that he can plan on being away from the house.  Just sayin’.

Fiddledaddy is the kind of guy that likes to look things up.  You know, research stuff.  On the internet. In books.  Wherever there are words, he reads them.  He even follows the directions that come with EVERYTHING.  My motto is DIRECTIONS ARE FOR THE WEAK!

It’s a wonder we ever got together really.

He came back armed with two articles he had found.  One was How to Prevent Menstrual Migraines, and the other was How to Soothe Menstrual Migraines.  Oh no.  Here we go.  This is the part where everything I love is to be avoided.  Just let me die peacefully.

WRONG. Check out #4 of this particular article:

“Increase your caffeine intake. Eat some chocolate to help open the blood vessels and increase the flow of blood. Make yourself a hot cup of green or black tea. Have an extra cup of coffee. Take a caffeine pill to decrease the intensity of your menstrual migraine.


And with that, after spoon feeding me some toast, he brought me a coffee drink made to perfection.  I choked as much down as I could manage, and then fell into a deep sleep.  The rest of the day was fuzzy, but I improved as I trudged along.  Swigging coffee and popping Excedrin.

I wish I could say the same for my house.

This is what my kitchen looks like when the Mommy is out of commission.


A small price to pay.

I’ve been pouring over the research presented to me on Menstrual Migraines, in the hopes that I NEVER let it get that bad again.  And I went to my bloggy friends and readers and asked for their advice on my Facebook page and Twitter.

I’ve compiled the extensive data and made a few graphs and color coded charts.

Just kidding.  I thought that if my dad were to ever read this he would think HEY, ALL THAT COLLEGE TUITION REALLY PAID OFF.

In reality all I learned was how to give the correct amount of cash whenever I drove through Jack-in-the-Box for middle of the night taco runs.


Here are a list of things to try:

  • Of course, increasing your caffeine intake ranks #1 in my book.
  • Reduce stress.  GOOD LUCK WITH THAT ONE IF YOU HAVE KIDS! But I do like the idea of aromatherapy.
  • Chart your migraines. They very often will follow a pattern, and you may be able to recognize triggers.
  • Check with your doctor, once you recognize a pattern, to see if a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug might help if taken a day or two prior.

These are the suggestions given by some bloggy friends.  I often refer to them as my gURLfriends: (I’m totally paraphrasing and combining suggestions)

  • Over the counter medication such as a 2- Tavist D and 2 Excedrin combo.  With a Dr. Pepper chaser.  Or a Frappuccino. Either way, I like it.
  • Something to relieve the sinus pressure, like warm moist steam and even Vicks Vapo Rub.  Also Sudaphed or Advil liqui-gels.
  • An over the counter product called Head-On (applied directly to the forehead) and Activ-On (applied to the back of the neck).
  • An ice pack for where the pain is most intense. (This is one that really helps me.)
  • Getting plenty of sleep.  (Again, good luck with that one if you have kids…)

The key is trying to recognize the warning signs and try to catch it before it gets bad by taking something to ward it off.  I have several friends that swear by Excedrin Migraine formula.  I remember this was the advice my gyn gave me when my cramps were so severe.  She said to start taking (Motrin) a day before the onset of the cramps, and try to stay ahead of the pain by not missing a dose.  This worked VERY well for pain management.

Also, diet can play an important role in how this can affect you.  Thank you Melanie for this article! (But when you get to the line about avoiding chocolate, just do what I do and close your eyes, stick your fingers into your ears and hum your happy song.)

Menstrual Migraines are generally caused by the hormonal shifts that you experience as you enjoy your time being a WOMAN.  This leads me to believe that I am going to TOTALLY ROCK MENOPAUSE and all the fresh hell that life experience will usher in.

If you have any other tips, thoughts, or observations regarding Menstrual Migraines, I would love to hear what you have to say!


21 Responses to Menstrual Migraines, like cramps and PMS weren’t enough

  • Thank you thank you thank you!! Our husbands could not be more alike. Neither could we..I think. Who needs directions? Hello, people that’s why they have pictures on the box.

    Now off to rummage in the freezer for my Reese’s.
    The freezer is totally where I hide my stash of chocolate (I type, peering over my shoulder to make certain no children are reading this). 🙂


  • I wish you would stop sneaking into my house and taking pictures of my kitchen! 😀

  • It was my husband who pointed out that my migraines seemed to visit around the same time as that other monthly visitor I have. I wonder what would drive our men to such extremes as charting our cycles. I’m just peachy to be around during that week.
    Thanks for the tips. I’m gonna pass this info along. I have many friends who will be thrilled to have another excuse to drink coffee and eat more chocolate.

  • If you have an iPhone there is a free period calendar that charts your period as well as you can put in notes I have been using it for a couple months. It really does make it easy to track headaches and know when to eat lots of chocolate.
    Thank you! I just found the app and downloaded it to my iPhone!


  • All those tips are pretty much what I’ve discovered over YEARS of monthly migraines. I wasn’t aware of the preventative doses of meds so I’ll try those too, although my headaches have dropped off lots since my mid-40’s. The only thing I might add would be to reduce your stress level as much as possible…also difficult with children!

  • Hey, chocolate has caffeine in it! Why on earth would I reduce my chocolate intake????

    In fact, my caffeine intake at least doubles during that time of month, and if I forgot to pick up chocolate in time, my husband will remember.

    Not because I’m grumbly or anything. . .he’s just being sweet.

  • I’ve had migraines since I was a teenager. The ones I get around ovulation and then again right before my period starts are so much worse than a regular migraine. I would suggest that you see your doctor. There are several prescription drugs that will stop a migraine cold. One that I’ve taken with great success and minimum side effects is Maxalt. One tablet and a cup of coffee and I’m like a new woman.

  • LOL, I had to stick my fingers in my ears and hum my happy song for about 75% of that list! And really, food triggers only happen for some people. It’s just that I’ve been dealing w the occasional menstrual migraine for several years now, the occasion non-PMS migraine as well, and for about 8 months, a constant low-level headache on one side that won’t go away. As in all day, every day. As well as what I suspect to be abdominal migraines. So yeah, I’ve been doing a LOT of research.

    I found out that someone I know gets migraines from peanuts and that lead me down that rabbit trail of food triggers. I don’t think I have any food triggers except perhaps nuts and/or seeds but I’ve been keeping a watch on it.

    And like I said on FB, the Excedrin Migraine formula is really just regular Excedrin in a different box. Compare the labels. At least they don’t charge a different price for it!

    Just do be careful with the caffeine. The trick is to get enough to make the headache go away, but not so much that you’ll end up with a “rebound headache”. Have Fiddledaddy look that one up for you. 😉

    Good luck – it’s miserable, isn’t it?!

  • I have about two weeks of ‘hormone induced’ headaches every month… don’t know if I’d call them migraines or not. Sometimes they’re bad, other times just a bother. BUT adding caffeine doesn’t work for everyone. Some people (like me) have to avoid caffeine during ‘that time’ because it can cause a headache or make it worse. Yeah I know.. bummer. Hope you find an answer that works for you. : )

  • I had the worst menstral migraines ever when I was in my freshman year of college… my doctor finally convince my dad to let me go on The Pill – and poof, they were gone.

    Fast forward 5 years to when I got married – had to change pills for some odd reason, and the migraines came back. But – I had a great doctor then that gave me a really low dose migraine med (Frova? maybe?) to take the day before I would normally get a headache – and that fixed them again.

    But the best cure of all – was being pregnant, and breastfeeding, lol. I just weaned my 10 month old, and when the migraines & menses started back… I was begging my husband to knock me up, no kidding.

    Luckily, he had more sense than I do, and gave me Excedrin. 🙂

  • My husband calls them “destructions” and throws them away as soon as they come out of the box. I fish them out of the garbage and wait patiently (not) until he can’t figure something out, then I stand by and read him the information.

  • I ALWAYS have to avoid chocolate and excess caffeine around Aunt Flo’s visit or I will have horrible cramps and the headache of all headaches (thank God no migraines, knock and wood and don’t even speak that into existence!!).

    I know two women who have migraines and they both have food triggers. One can’t eat sugar or MSG. The other one can’t tolerate milk products—might be a slight bit of lactose intolerance but it always brings on a migraine.

    Hope you feel better!!

  • I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I have one word for you baby. Perimenopause. Yep, an increase or onset of menstrual migraines is a symptom. Wait ’til the hot flashes start! Excellent blog fodder.

  • “gURLfriends” What a great word! I hope it catches on. 😀

  • Awwww…I’m sorry you’re struggling with this! But I’m glad you found out some triggers, and hope you can work to avoid them in the future! Sorry, I have no advice – I have had a couple migraines in my time, and they were terrible, but thankfully I don’t get them often.

  • I’m out of commission for a week each month. Yippee. I’m just thankful that I have young adult children now.

  • I suffer from monthly migraines too. Have just dealt with them all my adult life until about a year ago. I woke up with terrible neck pain and could not walk without holding on to the furniture. I went to the bathroom and went back to bed. A few hours later, woke up with the same symptoms but they were worse. Woke up my husband and sent him to google meningitis.

    I went to the dr that morning and he told me they were migraines but with different symptoms. He told me to cut out all caffeine and all processed meats. He also put me on these meds…in the morning I take-1000 mg pharmaceutical grade fish oil, 200 mg B-2, 30 mg Coenzyme Q-10, and 1 regular strength aspirin. At night I take 1000 mg of fish oil and 200mg B-2.

    Since I started these supplements, I have had NO migraines AT ALL. I always had them once a month to the point of going to bed and/or vomiting frequently.

    Don’t know if this would work for you but it has been a lifesaver for me.

  • I will probably jinx my self, but I don’t get menstrual headaches, but I do get the occassional 4-5 times a year migraine. As far as the kitchen goes that is what mine looks like just after I have spent 3 hours cleaning it and the boys all three of them find cups and plates that have been at their computer station for over a week or that is what it would look like if I ever went on strike!

  • That’s how my kitchen looked after my bout with the flu. I used to get migraines every month, but I was miraculously (yes, it really was a miracle) healed from them 15 years ago, and I’ve never had a another one. PTL! As for all the other ‘business’ one has to deal with, the hysterectomy took care of that. I’ll be 36 years old in 4 days, and I’m DONE with all of it. 🙂 Sorry I can’t commiserate.

  • I’m glad I’m not the only one whose kitchen looks like a bomb went off in it! I hope you feel better soon!

    This is a tried and true recipe for banishing headaches, as given to one of my best friends by her godfather, who is a neurosurgeon:

    2 benadryl
    4 advil
    1 regular coke

    And it WORKS! The other thing that helps when I first feel it coming on is to drink a beer. Which is supposedly the worst thing you can do, but it works for me. Beer helps me with pretty much everything, though 🙂

  • I have them… while pregnant this past year i had them 4 times a week for the first 4 months… not fun. When not pregnant, i take goody powder which is pretty much excedrin on steroids. It’s powder form let’s it hit your bloodstream in record time. Almost as good a real migraine meds, which i took many years ago.