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The Relationship of Ovarian Steroids, Headache Activity and Menstrual Distress: A Pilot Study With Female Migraineurs




Fourteen female volunteers who met diagnostic criteria for migraine headache monitored their headache activity and menstrual distress symptoms for one menstrual cycle. Serum estradiol and progesterone levels, and menstrual distress measures were collected at four points of the menstrual cycle: menstrual, ovulatory, luteal and premenstrual. Results indicated that one patient (7.1%) had menstrual migraine, 10 patients (71.4%) had menstrually-related headache and 3 (21.4%) had migraine headache unrelated to their menstrual cycle: subsequent analyses were conducted with the first two groups. Headache activity for the sample was highest during the premenstrual phase. Headache activity during the luteal and premenstrual phases was related to luteal phase progesterone levels. Menstrual distress was highest during the menstrual and premenstrual phases of the cycle, and these symptoms were related to higher estradiol levels, higher estradiol/progesterone ratios, and increased headache activity. These results indicated that for women with menstrual migraine or menstrually-related migraine, luteal progesterone levels may be significantly associated with headache activity, and estradiol and the estradiol/progesterone ratio may be significantly related to menstrual distress during the pre-menstrual phase of the cycle. The estradiol/progesterone ratio was not more related to headache or menstrual distress than either of these ovarian hormones alone. Suggestions for future research in this area are offered.