Migraines and Women

Three to one, women are more likely to suffer from chronic migraines than men. Studies focusing on migraines and women found significant economic, social, and psychological effects on female sufferers of chronic migraines. Scientists still struggle to explain the overwhelming correlation between migraines and women, but they have been able to offer some interesting insights.

Migraines and hormones


Women experience many hormonal changes throughout life, beginning with puberty and menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth, and leading into perimenopause and menopause. These fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels are an important link between migraines and women. We know that migraine sufferers tend to be hypersensitive to change of any kind, and hormonal changes are no exception. (Other examples of changes that trigger migraines include changes in eating habits or sleeping patterns.)

More than half of women who suffer chronic migraines get them around the time of their periods. Although menstrual migraines are common, very few women only get migraine headaches during menstruation. Scientists are still unsure exactly why menstrual migraines occur, but they theorize that it goes back to what we already understand about fluctuation as a migraine trigger.

Unfortunately, hormonal migraines don’t follow any predictable pattern. If you experience menstrual migraines, then menopause may cause a decrease in migraines, but not necessarily- some women, instead, report an increase in symptoms like headaches and nausea upon reaching menopause. Similarly, stories about migraines and women vary during their pregnancies, as the odds of experiencing fewer or more migraines during pregnancy or while breastfeeding are about equal.



More female migraine sufferers are likely to suffer from depression than males. Some psychologists believe it has to do with the way women react to stress. Women are introspective- when something is amiss, they tend to focus inwards. They may think about a conversation they had with a friend, or do an emotional inventory of faults and assets, where men predominantly respond to stress in a physical manner.

This contemplative tendency among female migraineurs sometimes backfires, especially if it turns into brooding, a symptom of depression. For that reason, treatments for migraines include antidepressants such as Zoloft, as depression and anxiety are often comorbid conditions of migraine disorder.