It’s no secret that getting your period can come with some unpleasant physical side effects like headaches – both before and during Shark Week. But for some of us, menstrual headaches can continue even after your menstrual flow winds up. Let’s look at the reasons you may be experiencing headaches after your period and what you can do to find relief.
Headache and menstrual period: What’s the link?
It’s thought that a menstrual headache is related to the shifting balance of reproductive hormones over the course of your menstrual cycle. When levels of estrogen decline, blood vessels in your head react by expanding. If you’re sensitive to the change, this can cause debilitating headaches in the low estrogen phases of your cycle: that’s usually just before and during your period.
What causes headaches after periods?
One possible culprit of a headache after periods is anemia. In other words, if you had a particularly heavy period, you may be running low on iron and red blood cells. Anemia can leave you feeling washed out and fatigued, and make you more prone to tension headaches as circulation through your neck and shoulders takes a hit.
Tension headaches can be quite debilitating on their own, but full-blown menstrual migraines are another matter. Unlike the pain of a tension headache, migraines are often accompanied by symptoms like nausea, and sensitivity to light and noise. If this sounds like you after a period, it’s possible that you may be dealing with an underlying hormone imbalance.
Treatment for headaches after periods
No matter when in your cycle they strike, headaches can be pretty debilitating. However, the right way to deal with them differ depending whether it’s a tension headache or a menstrual migraine.
Tension headache after periods
If you’re dealing with a tension headache, improving circulation and relaxing the muscles in your neck and shoulders may provide some relief from the referred strain.
Try applying the warmth of a heat pack or a hot shower to upper back, neck and shoulders. Combine this with stretches and exercises to loosen up the muscles in your neck and shoulders for greater relief.
Menstrual migraine after periods
The first step to taking care of a menstrual migraine is to listen to your body and get some bedrest in a quiet, dark room. Although it may be too difficult to sleep it off, keeping your eyes covered or closed may help. As opposed to a tension headache, most women with a menstrual migraine find that a cold compress is more effective in relieving the pain.
In either case of a tension headache or a menstrual migraine, you may find that over-the-counter pain relievers such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) take the edge of your pain. If not, don’t hesitate to see a doctor. Severe pain over the course of your menstrual cycle isn’t something you need to put up with.
Prevention of headaches after periods
If your menstrual headaches are regularly hanging around after Shark Week has already ended, there are steps you can take to lessen your odds: namely, supporting healthy hormone balance, and preventing iron and magnesium deficiency.
The arrival of your period might be the most obvious sign of your menstrual cycle in action, and your hormones are working their magic behind the scenes all throughout the month.
However, if you’re not meeting your body’s needs for nutrition and rest, or you’re shouldering a lot of mental stress, your body may not be able to regulate your hormone balance. Practice good self-care habits by enjoying a varied and nutritious diet, getting enough sleep and finding the time to relieve stress and tension in your daily life.
Adequate intake of iron and magnesium
Although it’s not always possible to prevent anemia from menstrual blood loss, you can make an effort to replenish lost iron by following a healthy diet. It’s also important to get enough magnesium: this nutrient plays a key role in regulating the way your blood vessel contract and relax.
Rich sources of iron include eggs and beef or chicken liver, as well as dark green vegetables leafy such as spinach and kale. You can meet your magnesium intake needs by from foods such as fish, seaweed, and soy foods like tofu.
Headaches after periods: A sign of pregnancy?
A headache after a period can be a sign of pregnancy. If your period hasn’t arrived on schedule and the headache is accompanied with other signs of pregnancy such as nausea and tender breasts, take a pregnancy test a week after your period due date.
Say goodbye to headaches after periods
Menstrual headaches that last after your period ends are a little unusual, but they can happen. If your hormone balance is a little out of whack, or you’re running low on nutrients like iron and magnesium, you could be more prone to them.
If yours don’t clear up with some lifestyle adjustments, see your doctor. Menstrual cycle symptoms aren’t something that should be ruining your whole day, and there are effective treatments available for them.