Harvard Health Letter

Migraine as a withdrawal symptom

Research suggests that some women may suffer migraines because of sudden changes in estrogen levels.

There's a big gender gap when it comes to migraine headaches. Adult women are two to three times more likely to get migraines than men. Symptoms differ, too. Women are less likely than men to experience aura, the strange visual disturbances and other sensations that precede the painful part of a migraine. But they're more likely to report that their migraines lead to nausea and vomiting.

These gender differences suggest that female reproductive hormones play a role in triggering migraines, and most of the evidence points to estrogen. But it's not as simple as the presence of estrogen being the cause of migraines. A growing body of research indicates that for some women, migraines are caused by the normal dips in estrogen levels that occur with the menstrual cycle. These menstrual headaches, as they are sometimes called, may be estrogen withdrawal headaches.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »