Headache in Women

Matthew S. Robbins, Jelena M. Pavlović

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


PURPOSE OF REVIEW Women are greatly overrepresented among patients seeking treatment for symptoms of headache pain in general and migraine in particular. Understanding the presentation of headache in women in relation to hormonal changes both during the menstrual cycle and throughout the life span is essential for appropriate diagnosis and treatment. RECENT FINDINGS Although perimenstrual migraine attacks are generally without aura, the diagnosis of migraine with aura has been added to the headache classification for menstrual migraine to account for women with the diagnosis of migraine with aura who experience menstrual migraine attacks. Emerging knowledge regarding the differences between menstrual and nonmenstrual attacks, the variability of attack triggering within and between women, and the response of women with menstrually related migraine to new migraine drug classes is contributing to better understanding and more effective treatment of these particularly burdensome and refractory attacks. Given the burden of migraine, almost one-fourth of women with migraine avoid or delay pregnancy. Women who experience migraine during pregnancy are more likely to have a hypertensive disorder and stroke during pregnancy and/or delivery and the postpartum period. Treatment of headache in general and migraine in particular in pregnancy is challenging because of fetal and maternal risks; however, a 2021 systematic review suggests that triptans and low-dose aspirin may not be associated with fetal/child adverse effects and could be more strongly considered for headache treatment in pregnancy. SUMMARY Headache in general and migraine in particular are extraordinarily common in women of reproductive age and fluctuate with hormonal changes and phases of life. Improved knowledge of the epidemiology, pathophysiology, and response to treatment of perimenstrual attacks is essential for more effective response to this most burdensome headache type. Treatment of headache in pregnancy remains challenging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)686-702
Number of pages17
JournalCONTINUUM Lifelong Learning in Neurology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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