What you should know about migraines and pregnancy

According to the Migraine Research Foundation, migraines are the third most prevalent illness worldwide, affecting around 39 million people in the United States. The pain, sensitivity to sound and light, and nausea can be incapacitating. For pregnant women, a migraine can amplify morning sickness and other normal physical changes during pregnancy. 

Women who suffered from migraines prior to becoming pregnant may notice changes in their headache patterns during pregnancy. Some may experience stronger headaches. For others, pregnancy will reduce the frequency and severity of migraines.

Some women may experience their first migraine attack during pregnancy, increasing in frequency during the first trimester and then decreasing later. They are usually nothing to worry about, however, a migraine could be an early indicator of pregnancy complications.

A study published in Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain found that pregnant women with severe migraines were associated with elevated risk of pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia, preterm delivery and low birth weight infants.

What migraine treatment options are available for pregnant women?

If you experience migraines, keep a thorough diary of migraine attacks. This will help you identify and avoid triggers, such as stress, certain foods and drinks and sensory stimuli.

Treatment of migraines in pregnancy may include soothing activities like meditation, yoga, acupuncture, and sleep. For pain relief, apply heat or cold packs to the sides of the head, eyes, and along the back of the neck. Be extremely careful with any medications to treat pain or nausea. Small amounts of acetaminophen and caffeine are safe, however, pregnant women should avoid medications containing aspirin or ibuprofen.

Migraine sufferers who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant should carefully evaluate migraine treatment options. Collaborate with your doctor to develop a treatment plan and a back up plan, which include both pain medications and home remedies.