Picture of woman in pain for blog

If you’re a woman who suffers from bad headaches or migraines, you’ve probably noticed they hit just before your period is due. These headaches and migraines can be linked to changing hormone levels during your menstrual cycle.

Before you get your period, the levels of two hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, drop to their lowest levels, which can cause severe headaches and migraines in women who are prone to them. High dose oestrogen birth control pills can also trigger migraines in some women.

If you are plagued by this type headache or migraine, and become pregnant, it is common for these to continue in the first trimester of pregnancy. This is due to the changing levels of oestrogen in early pregnancy, as well as the increased volume of blood in your body. Allergies, lack of sleep, insufficient vitamins, dehydration, low blood sugar, caffeine withdrawal or a combination of the above can also be contributing factors.

Migraines in pregnancy can be debilitating, and as most pain medications are unsafe during pregnancy, it is a good idea to look at natural alternatives to relieve them.

Why do migraines occur? Well as stated above, changing hormone levels and increased blood volume can be a factor in the first, and sometimes second trimester of pregnancy. A person prone to these is usually in a sympathetic-dominant state – meaning there is a lot of tightness in your body, particularly in your back, neck and shoulders – so the blood vessels in these areas are constricted. This reduces blood circulation – including circulation to the brain.

The internal branch of the carotid artery passes through an opening in the skull and is a major source of blood for the brain. When this constriction becomes too much, the body responds by releasing neurotransmitters which cause “rebound dilation” – a natural defense mechanism our bodies use to compensate for reduced blood flow. Rebound dilation can then cause over-dilation of the blood vessels receptors, resulting in the intense pain and throbbing of a migraine.

Premenstrual headaches/migraines, and migraines during early pregnancy can be treated naturally – with rest, cold/hot compresses, massage and acupuncture. Magnesium can also be helpful, but you should talk to your health care professional to discuss the correct dosage during pregnancy.

What can acupuncture do? Well, acupuncture can be used as a preventative, to reduce the frequency/intensity of headaches and migraines. You can also have an acupuncture treatment during a migraine attack to relieve the pain, as well as to help reduce symptoms of nausea and vomiting you might be having.

How does it do this? In traditional chinese medicine, there is a belief that we have energy moving through our bodies called ‘Qi’. This Qi can become blocked or stagnated with prolonged stress – either emotional stress or physical stress on the body – including poor posture and lack of exercise. Acupuncture can get the Qi moving freely through your body again, with the insertion of fine needles in particular points along your body. Acupuncture can also help to balance your hormones, and increase levels of endorphins, the feel good hormones that reduce pain.

A treatment combining massage, cupping and acupuncture, can reduce the frequency and pain of headaches and migraines. Combining these with increased protein in your diet, enough water to hydrate your body, and activities like Yoga and Pilates, can help you manage your headaches/migraines naturally and effectively.

Michelle Bryceland is a Naturopath & Acupuncturist who has been helping women improve their health for nearly fifteen years. Michelle practises in Yarraville at Essentials for Health and is available for appointments on Mondays, Thursday and Saturdays – http://www.essentialsforhealth.com.au.