Can Menopause Cause Headaches?

Headaches can be caused by tension, food allergies, dehydration, lack of sleep, and more. In addition, many women get headaches with fluctuating hormones which happens when approaching menopause. This article discusses the types of headaches that are related to hormones, how hormones can cause headaches, prevention tips, and treatment of menopausal headaches.

Language Considerations

The words “female” and "women" are used here to refer to people who identify as women and have typical reproductive organs of a cisgender female. We recognize that some people who identify as women do not have the same anatomy as that depicted in this article.

Woman suffering from insomnia and headache

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What Is Perimenopause?

Menopause occurs when a woman's menstrual cycle (period) permanently stops for 12 months in a row. Perimenopause is the time leading up to menopause.

Menopause and Headaches

Headaches are linked to menopause and changing hormones. Migraines are the most common type of headache found with an imbalance of hormones, especially estrogen (the primary sex hormone in cisgender females). 

Migraines often begin gradually and progress to a moderate or severe throbbing or constant headache made worse by activity, light, or sound. They typically include nausea and can cause exhaustion or confusion after the migraine.

Menopause and Headache Statistics

The following are statistics related to women, menopause, and headaches:

  • Women are three times more likely to experience a migraine than men.
  • 12% of menopausal women have high-frequency headaches (10 or more per month).
  • For 24.4% of menopausal women, their headaches improved with menopause.
  • For 35.7% of menopausal women, their headaches worsened with menopause. 
  • Women who experience early menopause are at a higher risk of migraines.
  • Migraines may wake you up in the night or early hours of the morning.

Causes

Tension headaches, the most common type of headaches, are caused by stress and muscle tension. However, abnormal levels of hormones such as estrogen are what typically trigger menopause headaches. Other hormonal causes that can contribute to headaches include:

  • Hormone therapy: This is the replacement of female hormones. Healthcare providers may prescribe it to treat menopause symptoms. When given as a pill or injection, it can cause headaches.
  • Fluctuation in hormones: As a woman approaches menopause, her ovaries produce fewer hormones to stop the body from having periods. This fluctuation can either resolve or trigger hormone-related headaches.

Other Symptoms

In In addition to headaches, other menopause symptoms include:

  • Changes in periods
  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Dry skin 
  • Forgetfulness
  • Mood swings
  • Low sex drive
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Urinary incontinence (leakage)

Treatment

Some headaches are relieved with rest or over-the-counter pain medications or home remedies. However, more severe headaches may require medical treatment. 

Medication

Medications for menopause headaches can be either hormonal—to help counteract the fluctuating hormone levels—or non-hormonal:

  • Hormones: While hormone therapy may cause headaches, a lack of hormones can also be a trigger. In this case, your healthcare provider may prescribe or adjust hormone therapy. Adjustments may include a change in the amount of medication, timing, or route. For example, they may switch you from oral estrogen to a patch or vaginal cream.
  • Non-hormonal medications: Depending on your symptoms, your healthcare provider may prescribe non-hormonal medicines used to prevent or treat migraines. Antidepressants such as Effexor (venlafaxine), Paxil (paroxetine), and Lexapro (escitalopram), and an anticonvulsant (anti-seizure medication) called Gralise (gabapentin) have been proven effective. 

Home Remedies

 For current headaches, you can try the home remedies:

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) headache medications: OTC headache medicines such as Tylenol (acetaminophen), Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen), Aleve (naproxen), Ecotrin, Bufferin, or Ascriptin (aspirin) or Excedrin (acetaminophen, aspirin, caffeine) may help.
  • OTC nausea medications: For nausea, you can try Benadryl (diphenhydramine), Dramamine (dimenhydrinate), or Bonine (meclizine). Please take caution when taking these medications as they can make you drowsy.
  • Cold therapy: Lay down in a dark and quiet area. Place a cool rag on your forehead, the back of your neck, and over your eyes. This decreases swelling, blocks out light, and decreases nausea.

Caffeine in Medications

Many forms of Excedrin include caffeine which often relieves headaches. However, it can be a headache trigger for some people. 

Prevention

The following are techniques to help prevent migraines caused by menopause:

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Adopting healthy lifestyle changes such as eating well, exercising, stress management, and getting enough sleep can help prevent headaches.
  • Hydrate (drink water): Decreased hormone levels make it more difficult for your body to replenish fluids. This can cause dehydration, which can lead to headaches. Drinking water helps your body replace the fluid it loses.
  • Avoid triggers: It can be helpful to identify and avoid food or environmental triggers such as alcohol, dairy, gluten, monosodium glutamate (MSG), strong smells, or bright lights.
  • Alternative therapies: Some people use natural supplements such as B vitamins, coenzyme Q10, magnesium, black cohosh, and butterbur to prevent migraines. Acupuncture, massage, and essential oils are also alternative methods that may help. Talk with your healthcare provider to see which are an option for you.
  • Prescription medications: Seek the advice of a healthcare provider if headaches are severe or recurrent. Preventative prescription medications may help women who experience headaches more than two days a week.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Talk with your healthcare provider about any of the following symptoms:

  • Your first headache
  • Headaches that are getting worse or feel different than before
  • A sudden, severe headache 
  • A headache that wakes you 
  • A headache that occurs with a high fever or rash
  • A headache combined with dizziness, or weakness 
  • Headaches combined with unexplained weight loss

Summary

Women often experience migraine-type headaches caused by fluctuating hormones as they approach menopause. These headaches typically worsen with light, sound, and activity and cause nausea. While there are at-home treatment options, it’s best to see your healthcare provider for severe headaches. They may prescribe hormonal or non-hormonal treatment methods to help improve your symptoms.

A Word From Verywell

Symptoms of menopause vary for every woman and can change as you move through the transition. Don’t be shy about talking with your healthcare provider if symptoms affect your activities of daily living or worry you. They may want to rule out other underlying conditions or prescribe medications. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What age does menopause start?

    Perimenopause usually begins when a woman is in her 40s or 50s, with the average age of menopause being 52 years old.

  • How long does menopause last?

    Perimenopause, the time leading up to menopause, can take two to eight years. Once you’ve reached menopause (no periods for 12 months in a row), hot flashes can last another four to 10 years.

  • How early does menopause start?

    The average age a woman reaches natural menopause is 51-52. Menopause is considered premature when it occurs anytime before age 40.

  • Can menopause cause dizziness?

    Yes, dizziness can be a symptom of menopause. However, it’s important to talk with your healthcare provider to rule out other health concerns that may be causing dizziness.

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16 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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