Patient Blogs | Migraine
Managing Migraine and That Time of the Month
photo of unhappy young woman with migraine

For years, every time I had my period, the exclamation mark was a severe migraine. To this day, as my cycles wind down a bit and I begin to enter a new season, I still have period migraines. 

One day my doctor broke it down and explained that the changes in hormones can lead to such migraines. Great. As if salt and chocolate cravings, irritability, fatigue, and brain fog weren’t enough. It seemed so unfair for many years. It still does. 

After having more than 25 years of welcoming crazy Aunt Flo, I’ve had to learn to work through PMS where the M for me stands for migraine.

Here’s what I would tell my 15-year-old with braces self or even my 20-something buying my first pantsuit self:

  • Don’t be surprised by her arrival. I don’t know why I’m like this, but after years of being quite regular, I always seemed to be surprised by my period. I would try to write it on a calendar and remember and would be on the lookout for classic symptoms, but she always seemed to do a sneak attack followed by a sucker punch of a migraine. Now, I use apps that have helped greatly. Also, as annoying as it might be, I even rely on my husband to gently mention a few things that might seem to be indicative of a period on the way. Believe me – he treads with caution! Uggghh! ... I hate when he’s right, but it does snap me back into reality.
  • Be gentle with yourself. One time, my grandmother shared that when she was growing up, girls and women really took it easy during their cycles – some going as far as not really working, putting their feet up, and staying warm. I thought it was so old-fashioned at the time, but like a lot of things, I’ve found myself going back to the basics. I decided to give Grandma’s advice a try and be really kind to myself in the days leading up to my cycle. It worked! I found my migraines would be less intense and cover fewer days. Being gentle meant everything from a warm bath or massage to an easy walk and yes – even a small bowl of ice cream. 
  • Cut the stress, then cut again. The old saying says to measure twice and cut once. I think it’s the opposite for stress. I measure once (paying attention to my body and mind) and cut twice! I know stress is a migraine trigger for me and the hormone changes during my period, so I’ll do all I can to fight back. On a particularly stressful workday, I might reschedule a meeting or two. During PMS migraine moments (or even before), I might clear the entire day. I even avoid certain people before and during my period because I know their style of communication tends to flare my emotions. I’ll opt for comedies over true-life crime shows and fun household projects over something intense like doing my taxes. 
  • Fuel with premium. My car is not a luxury vehicle, so it does just fine with unleaded gas. However, I like to consider my body top-of-the-line and it needs fuel that is the highest quality. It might have felt great to inhale an extra-large bowl of chocolate ice cream or ranch chips in the days leading up to my period, but it sure didn’t make me feel good when the deed was done. I’ve found some ways to get my chocolate or salt cravings addressed and still feel good. I’ve traded the gas station candy bar for some almonds covered in dark chocolate. If I need salt – a handful of nuts does the trick. I’m constantly on the path to finding healthy, yet yummy recipes to make it through my period and life in general. 
  • Soothe with supplements. I am now officially a believer in a little magnesium at night to help my migraines. I mix a little powder in my water nightly, and I make sure this is part of my regimen just before and during my cycle. I don’t know all the ways that it works, but I’ve read that many people are magnesium deficient. I think I’m one of them! It also provides a calming effect, helps me sleep better, and gives me a little chill when maybe I want to snap someone’s head off and blame PMS! 

For years, I dreaded my periods in the typical ways but also because they included migraines. I now see both as a sign to extend a little grace – both to myself and others. Until my period makes its final debut, I’ll relish the fact that at least I don’t get cramps! 

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Photo Credit: PixelsEffect / E+ via Getty Images

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Michele Jordan

Michele Jordan

Diagnosed since 1992

Michele Jordan, a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, was diagnosed with migraine in 1992. Her writing background includes magazine and online journalism, grant writing, and now screenwriting. She is passionate about both physical and mental health and is the author of the book, Thanking Your Way to Joy: Daily Gratitude Journal. When not writing, Michele enjoys traveling with her husband, trying new, healthy recipes, and cuddling beagles. Her latest passion includes exploring and discussing issues around equity in housing, health care, and the justice system.

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