Headache and migraine are common conditions with a wide variety of causes. It isn‘t unusual for headaches and migraine to be linked to your periods.

According to 2009 research that grouped participants into categories of women and men, 50 percent of women with migraine associate their symptoms with their menstrual cycle.

While some people experience headache symptoms the week before or during the actual days of their period, other people have head throbbing or pain that’s triggered by a different part of the menstrual cycle: ovulation.

In this article, we explore why ovulation and menstruation can trigger headaches and migraine and what you can do to prevent and alleviate symptoms.

As you can probably guess, menstrual headaches are related to your menstrual cycle. A “menstrual“ headache typically refers to headaches and migraine that happen right before or during your period.

Drops in your estrogen levels that happen right before you start bleeding can be the catalyst for these headaches or migraine.

Ovulation headaches are also linked to your menstrual cycle, but they take place right before or during ovulation.

Ovulation is the time in your cycle when your ovaries release an egg in preparation for fertilization. The release of this egg marks the beginning of the “fertile window.“ This is the only time of the month when you can become pregnant. Typically, ovulation happens about 14 days after the first day of your period.

An ovulation headache can be a tension-type headache or a migraine. Ovulation and menstrual headaches aren‘t typically linked to other types of headaches.

Hormones are the primary underlying cause of both menstrual and ovulation headaches.

When your body is getting ready to ovulate, estrogen levels build. Once estrogen levels are at their peak, luteinizing hormone surges and tells your body that it’s time to release an egg that’s been preparing in your ovary.

When the egg is released, some people feel pain or discomfort. Others don’t notice a thing. And some people end up with a headache or migraine due to all that hormonal activity.

People who have menstrual headache and migraine might experience them because of the drastic drop in their estrogen levels.

Similarly, people who have ovulation headache and migraine might experience headache because their estrogen levels during that time of the cycle are very high.

Another hormone called prostaglandin, which some people have higher levels of, has been linked to migraine as well.

Tension-type headache and migraine linked to stages of your menstrual cycle don’t necessarily have distinctive symptoms. However, this type of headache may be more disruptive to your day-to-day activities when combined with other menstrual cycle symptoms, like pelvic pain, cramps, and fatigue.

Several studies have found that menstrual migraine brings on more severe pain and lasts longer than migraine with other triggers.

Symptoms of an ovulation or menstrual-related headache may include:

  • throbbing pain in one or both sides of your head
  • visual disturbances like blurry vision, also known as aura
  • sensitivity to sunshine or bright lights
  • sensitivity to sound
  • nausea or vomiting

Since ovulation headaches have a hormonal trigger, most treatment strategies are centered on controlling that hormonal peak and drop so that it isn’t so severe.

While there are many treatment strategies available for menstrual-related headache and migraine, more research is needed that’s specific to ovulation headache treatment.

Home remedies

  • Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil) can help with pain from ovulation headaches. However, if you’re experiencing migraine, these over-the-counter drugs might not be as helpful.
  • A warm or cool compress against your head may help soothe and distract from head pain.
  • Diffusing peppermint essential oil or even applying diluted peppermint oil topically may help reduce pain from tension-type headaches.
  • When your body is having a severe headache or migraine, getting more sleep or resting can work wonders in restoring your body.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Prescription medication

To treat an ovulation headache or migraine that’s currently going on, you may need to try a prescription-strength nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) or a class of medications called triptans.

Triptans are used to control pain from powerful, recurring headaches and can be given as a nasal spray, oral tablet, or even an injection.

If your headaches are caused by ovulation, managing your hormones with preventive medication may help.

Your doctor may prescribe birth control pills to manage the steep drops in hormones that happen during ovulation. If you’re already on birth control pills, you may want to try another type to prevent ovulation headaches.

If you’re having frequent migraine attacks, you may be given preventive medications to take during the time of your cycle when you tend to experience migraine episodes.

Doctors sometimes prescribe the following classes of medications to prevent hormone headaches and migraine:

If you have these types of headaches frequently, or if your symptoms are severe, talk with a doctor. They may have lifestyle recommendations or specific methods you can try to prevent headaches.

Ovulation headaches can be caused by peaking estrogen and surging luteinizing hormone.

Like other types of headache that are linked to your cycle, they can be treated with hormone therapy if they recur frequently. Home remedies can also help you manage the pain from these types of headache.

More research is needed to understand how common ovulation headaches are and if there are other treatments that can effectively treat this specific headache trigger.