Comparing Perimenstrual and Nonperimenstrual Migraine Attacks Using an e-Diary

Neurology. 2021 Oct 26;97(17):e1661-e1671. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000012723. Epub 2021 Sep 7.


Background and objectives: Endogenous and exogenous female sex hormones are considered important contributors to migraine pathophysiology. Previous studies have cautiously suggested that perimenstrual migraine attacks have a longer duration and are associated with higher disability compared to nonperimenstrual attacks, but they showed conflicting results on acute therapy efficacy, pain intensity, and associated symptoms. We compared perimenstrual and nonperimenstrual migraine attack characteristics and assessed premenstrual syndrome (PMS) in women with migraine.

Methods: Women with migraine were invited to complete a headache e-diary. Characteristics of perimenstrual attacks and nonperimenstrual attacks were compared. The primary outcome was attack duration. Secondary outcomes were headache intensity, accompanying symptoms, acute medication intake, and pain coping. Mixed effects models were used to account for multiple attacks within patients. PMS was assessed in patients without hormonal contraceptives. Subgroup analyses were performed for women with menstrually related migraine (MRM) and nonmenstrually related migraine (non-MRM) and women with a natural menstrual cycle and women using hormonal contraceptives.

Results: A representative group of 500 participants completed the e-diary for at least 1 month. Perimenstrual migraine attacks (n = 998) compared with nonperimenstrual attacks (n = 4097) were associated with longer duration (20.0 vs 16.1 hours, 95% confidence interval 0.2-0.4), higher recurrence risk (odds ratio [OR] 2.4 [2.0-2.9]), increased triptan intake (OR 1.2 [1.1-1.4]), higher headache intensity (OR 1.4 [1.2-1.7]), less pain coping (mean difference -0.2 [-0.3 to -0.1]), more pronounced photophobia (OR 1.3 [1.2-1.4]) and phonophobia (OR 1.2 [1.1-1.4]), and less aura (OR 0.8 [0.6-1.0]). In total, 396/500 women completed the diary for ≥3 consecutive menstrual cycles, of whom 56% (221/396) fulfilled MRM criteria. Differences in attack characteristics became more pronounced when focusing on women with MRM and women using hormonal contraceptives. Prevalence of PMS was not different for women with MRM compared to non-MRM (11% vs 15%).

Discussion: The longer duration of perimenstrual migraine attacks in women (with MRM) is associated with higher recurrence risk and increased triptan use. This may increase the risk of medication overuse and emphasizes the need to develop female-specific prophylactic treatment.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Medical Records*
  • Menstruation*
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Migraine Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Migraine Disorders* / etiology
  • Prevalence
  • Tryptamines / therapeutic use


  • Tryptamines