Pregnancy and Migraines—What You Should Know

Pregnancy and Migraines—What You Should Know

By Charlotte Falkner Published at On Wednesday Views 2,706 Likes 1

The Migraine Research Foundation states that migraine headaches “disproportionately affect women, with approximately 27 million female sufferers in the United States.” Meanwhile, the statistic site Quora estimates that as many as four percent of the women in the United States are pregnant at any given time (approximately 6.3 million women). Therefore, it’s safe to assume that many women who become pregnant will also have migraines. Here are helpful answers to questions you may have about the possible effects of pregnancy on migraines.

What causes women’s migraines in the first place?

Although the exact causes of migraines are not fully understood, and vary among individuals, researchers do have extensive evidence of the connection between female hormones and migraines. There is a direct correlation between the onset of puberty and the onset of migraines in adolescent girls, as well as the role hormones play every step along the way in development (menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, and later). According to The Migraine Trust, even synthetic hormones (e.g., birth control pills) can be triggers for some unfortunate women with no previous history of migraines.

Will pregnancy affect my migraine frequency and severity?

As you well know, pregnancy causes myriad changes to your body as it unleashes constantly fluctuating hormones. However, if you are a migraineur, pregnancy is not all bad news! The Migraine Research Foundation actually finds that, “60 percent of pregnant sufferers find their migraines improve significantly in their first trimester and more than 75 percent find they improve or even disappear during the rest of their pregnancy.” Although this means about 25 percent of migraine sufferers report no change in the number of migraines they have, it is more likely you will experience a reduction in migraine frequency and severity when you are pregnant.

Is my migraine medication safe to take during my pregnancy?

If you are a longtime migraine patient, chances are you have at least one health care provider who works with you on a migraine treatment and medication plan. With pregnancy, you should do a careful review of all your medications to ensure their safety to you and your fetus, and this should include both prescription and over-the-counter migraine medications. It is extremely important that you inform all of your health care providers about your migraine medicines (especially your OB/GYN, who may not otherwise know you have migraines). MedPage Today suggests that, "good hydration, good sleep, and low stress” will help treat migraines during pregnancy, but if patients do not have success with those techniques, "the triptans are [the] go-to [migraine] medication” for pregnant patients. Do not assume that your current migraine medications are safe, however, as some can impact fetal development. Be sure to double-check your medicines with your health care provider(s) as soon as you become pregnant. If your migraines continue and cannot be helped with diet, sleep, or traditional methods, you can also consult a neurologist or a maternal-fetal medicine specialist.

Will my migraine hurt my unborn baby?

No. According the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, having a migraine does not “pose a direct threat to the [fetus].” This does not apply, however, to many migraine medications, as mentioned above.

When is a migraine during my pregnancy something to worry about?
Although pregnancy headaches are common, you should also know that a severe headache when you are pregnant could be a symptom of a serious health issue for you or your baby. The American Pregnancy Association suggests you consult your health care provider immediately in the event you experience any of the following:

• A headache accompanied by a fever
• A headache that does not diminish or recurs for several days
• Blurred vision

Will my migraines return after the baby is born?

Unfortunately, there is no definite answer to this question. Some women who are lucky enough to experience decreased migraines during pregnancy report having severe migraines immediately after giving birth due to the rapid change in hormones. The Migraine Research Foundation finds that, “sufferers [usually] return to their pre-pregnancy migraine patterns after they give birth. But, regular nursing may delay the return of migraines.” While breastfeeding, as during pregnancy, you should pay close attention to any medicines you ingest, as they are also passed on to your baby through breast milk.

Since every pregnancy, every body, and every migraine is different, there is no way to predict with absolute certainty how your migraines will respond to pregnancy. The important things to remember are to keep the lines of communication open with your health care providers, listen to what your body is telling you, and try not to let any migraines interfere with this miraculous time!

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