Estrogen, Oxytocin, and Migraines: Unpacking the Connection

June 26, 2023


I had a patient who was a young woman suffered from frequent migraines for a long period of time. She was smart, retired, and loved to write, but migraine robbed her of her energy and vitality. She had tried various medications, but these were not sufficiently effective. Her migraines become daily and more intolerable after menopause without her being put on any hormonal therapy. One day, she came to me, and I told her about the hormonal influences on migraines and the fascinating roles of estrogen and oxytocin.

Understanding the Role of Estrogen in Migraines

She started to do her own research, and learned that estrogen fluctuations may trigger migraines. During the menstrual cycle, estrogen levels rise and fall, which can trigger migraines in some women. In fact, research has shown that women are three times more likely to suffer from migraines than men, which is thought to be related to hormonal differences. Research has shown that Estrogen affects the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain that are involved in regulating pain perception and mood, and changes in their levels can contribute to the development of migraines. Estrogen also affects the tone and function of blood vessels, which can contribute to the development of migraine. Several studies have explored the relationship between estrogen levels and migraines. One study found that women who experienced migraines had lower levels of estrogen during their menstrual cycle than those who did not experience migraines. Another study found that women who used oral contraceptives had a lower incidence of migraine than those who did not use hormonal contraceptives. Estrogen therapy may help alleviate migraines in some women. This treatment involves taking estrogen supplements during the menstrual cycle to stabilize estrogen levels and prevent migraine.

Exploring the Role of Oxytocin in Migraines

However, estrogen is not the only hormone that can influence migraines. Oxytocin, a hormone that is often referred to as the “love hormone” because it is released during social bonding and intimacy. Oxytocin is a hormone often associated with childbirth and lactation. Estrogen regulates oxytocin release and oxytocin receptor expression. Recent research has shown that oxytocin may also play a role in migraines. Oxytocin has been found to have a pain-relieving effect and can reduce both the intensity and frequency of migraine. This occurs by interacting with the central nervous system and reducing the activation of pain pathways in the brain. Other studies have shown that people with migraines have lower levels of oxytocin in their bodies.

Oxytocin and Migraine

Hormonal Treatments for Migraines

Taking estrogen to stabilize hormone levels, whether from birth control or hormone replacement therapy (HRT), decreases migraine frequency and intensity of the attack. Dosing birth control pills continuously so that there is no break for a monthly period can be an effective way to reduce menstrual migraine. HRT, typically used to treat common menopausal symptoms, can also be effective in preventing migraine. However, these treatments also come with risks such as an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and breast cancer, particularly in women who smoke or have other risk factors for these conditions. Your healthcare provider can help you find proper treatment based on your migraine symptoms, menstrual or perimenopausal symptoms, cycle timing, and personal risk factors.

Managing Migraines: Lifestyle and Holistic Approaches

I advised her to stay hydrated and keep a migraine diary to identify triggers, such as certain foods, stress, and changes in sleep patterns, and tried to avoid these triggers as much as possible. In addition to hormonal treatments, good sleep, regular exercise, stress reduction techniques, and a healthy diet can help prevent migraine. Moreover, acupuncture and massage may be effective complementary therapies for migraine management.
In the end, she realized that managing migraines requires a personalized approach that takes into account individual hormonal and lifestyle factors. She understood the importance of working with healthcare providers to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that includes both traditional and holistic approaches.


In conclusion, the roles of estrogen and oxytocin in migraine are complex and multifaceted. A drop in estrogen or magnesium can trigger a drop in oxytocin levels and stimulate migraine headaches. Although hormonal treatments may be effective for some women, they also pose risks. A holistic approach that includes lifestyle changes and complementary therapies may be more sustainable and individualized for managing migraines. If you are experiencing migraines, it is important to speak with your doctor to determine the underlying causes and develop an appropriate treatment plan.



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Categories: Compounding