Here Is Why Women Experience Migraines More During Menstruation 

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When women experience their monthly cycle, they typically encounter unpleasant symptoms such as cravings, cramping, and headaches. One of the specific issues that women face during or around their period is migraines, which affect them at a rate three times higher than men. Researchers in Berlin have shed light on why this occurs, discovering that females with migraines tend to exhibit increased levels of the calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) neurotransmitter that triggers migraines during menstruation.

High levels of CRGP trigger migraines during periods 

According to Dr. Bianca Raffaelli, the lead researcher at the Headache Center in the Department of Neurology with Experimental Neurology at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin’s Mitte campus, animal models indicate that changes in female hormones, particularly estrogen, cause a surge in the release of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) a naturally occurring inflammatory neurotransmitter,  in the brain. During a migraine attack, the levels of CGRP increase, leading to a significant widening or dilation of the blood vessels in the brain. This triggers an inflammatory reaction that may be one of the reasons why people experience severe headaches during a migraine attack.

The team at Charité conducted a study that involved 180 women in determining whether there is a correlation between female hormones and CGRP release in humans. First, the researchers examined the CGRP levels in patients suffering from migraines during ovulation and menstruation. They discovered that the levels of CGRP were significantly higher in migraine patients. This suggests that hormonal fluctuations in women could trigger the release of CGRP, leading to migraines.

Women release more CGRP during menstruation. 

Raffaelli said that it implies when estrogen levels drop before the beginning of menstruation, migraine individuals tend to release increased levels of CGRP. Therefore it explains why such individuals suffer more attacks before and during menstruation. 

It is worth noting that taking birth control pills results in fewer estrogen fluctuations leading to steady CGRP levels.   The team observed this pattern consistently in women with or without migraines. However, the researchers also observed comparable trends in postmenopausal women, indicating that additional factors may contribute to the release of CGRP. 

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