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Why Do More Women Suffer From Migraines Than Men?

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Hazel Caingcoy · Updated Feb 12, 2023

    Why Do More Women Suffer From Migraines Than Men?

    Migraines are characterized by acute, pounding headaches that can last several hours or even days. Pulsing or pounding pains usually occur in the forehead, side of the head, or around the eyes. Over time, the headache becomes worse. Movements, activities, bright lights, loud noises or even some food items all seem to aggravate the pain. A migraine can also cause nausea and vomiting. And the frequency of migraines can vary from once every few months to once a day. More women than men suffer from migraines. What causes migraines in females?

    Women may be more prone to migraine because of fluctuations in hormones. Women’s migraine symptoms are frequently triggered by hormonal changes throughout the course of their lives-such as during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause.

    Female reproductive systems are developed and regulated by estrogen. When estrogen levels fluctuate, headaches may occur especially at the beginning and end of your menstrual cycle. Also, when undergoing hysterectomy or around menopause, women may suffer from migraines.

    What Causes Migraines in Females?

    Several factors can cause migraines, but in women, it is usually caused by hormones. What causes migraines in females? The level of hormones fluctuates due to a variety of factors. Among the most significant fluctuations happen during specific times:

    1. Before the Start of Menstruation

    A day or two before your period, estrogen levels drop to prepare your uterus for menstruation. Migraines can result from this hormone drop.

    2. While a Woman Is Pregnant 

    In the first trimester, your estrogen level rises rapidly to help your placenta and uterus transfer nutrients to the baby more efficiently.

    3. A Few Days After Giving Birth 

    In the days and weeks following delivery, your level of estrogen declines since you are no longer supporting a pregnancy.

    4. During Menopause or Perimenopause 

    During menopause, or even before menopause (perimenopause), the levels of hormones fluctuate.

    5. When Taking Contraceptive Pills 

    Oral contraceptives alter the hormone levels in your body, which can trigger migraines to occur. 

    Other Migraine Triggers

    Hormones play a significant role in headaches, but they are not the only cause. What causes migraines in females? Migraines can occur from heightened stress or emotional distress. 

    Among the factors of what causes migraines in females are:

    • Anxiety – Stress can lead to anxiety, which leads to eating unhealthy food, having a disrupted sleep schedule, and engaging in other behaviors that can trigger migraines. 
    • Glare – Computer screens, direct sunlight or overhead lights may irritate your eyes and cause headaches.
    • Physical activity – Excessive exercise may cause swelling of blood vessels in your head, neck and scalp, resulting in a migraine.
    • Sensitivities to certain foods –  Neurotransmitters released by some foods and drinks can cause headaches. There are many triggers for this condition including caffeine, cheese, chocolate, and alcohol. 

    Other triggers also include:

    • Noise
    • Stress
    • Skipping meals
    • Lack of sleep
    • Certain medicines
    • Concussion
    • Dehydration

    Can Birth Control Pills Trigger Migraines?

    What causes migraines in females? Can contraceptive pills also be a trigger? 

    Birth control pills may relieve migraines in some women. It may be possible for the pills to reduce the number of migraine attacks and make them less intense.

    In other cases, however, the pills may make migraines worse. Others may not experience any improvement in their migraines after taking birth control pills.

    There is no clear explanation for these different responses. The last week of the menstrual cycle seems to be the worst time for migraine sufferers taking birth control pills. Generally, most monthly pill packs do not contain hormones in the last seven pills. These pills are designed to help you remember to take your birth control daily. With no hormonal support, your levels of estrogen plummet. The fluctuation of hormones during this period can trigger a migraine.

    How Is Migraine in Women Treated?

    Ibuprofen, aspirin, NSAIDs and acetaminophen are over-the-counter pain relievers that some people use to relieve mild migraine pain. A prescription drug might be recommended for you if these drugs don’t work.

    It is best to begin taking acute migraine medicines as soon as the first symptoms appear. Be prepared for an attack by carrying your migraine medicine with you.  Some migraine sufferers may be prescribed a powerful “rescue” drug as well. Because migraine drugs don’t work on everyone the same way, working with your doctor is essential to finding the right medication for you.

    What causes migraines in females? It could also be lifestyle choices.

    In order to manage the symptoms of migraine headaches, you may need to consider lifestyle changes. Aside from avoiding known triggers like alcohol and stress, make sure you stay hydrated. The amount of water you drink each day should be 1.5 to 2 liters.

    Limit excessive coffee consumption and energy drinks if it is hindering your sleep. Furthermore, sleep, both quantity and quality, is a crucial component to preventing migraines. Maintaining consistency with your sleeping, waking, and eating patterns will surely help with managing migraines.

    Key Takeaway

    Migraines may happen to anyone, but it usually happens to women. They occur more in women because of the fluctuation of hormones in the body when they experience certain changes especially during puberty and pregnancy. Migraines in women can  be managed by the right medication and lifestyle changes. 

    Learn more about Headaches and Migraines here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


    Written by Hazel Caingcoy · Updated Feb 12, 2023

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