In this article, we have compiled detailed information about migraine headaches and pregnancy for mothers and pregnant women.
Headaches are a common right of passage taken during pregnancy stages. According to The National Women’s Health Resource Center in Red Bank, N.J., an estimated 28 million women and men suffer from migraine headaches. Women tend to experience migraines three times more often than men, due to the direct link between migraines and changes in the levels of the hormone estrogen that occur during a typical menstrual cycle.
An estimated 15 to 20 percent of expectant women may suffer from migraines. Some women’s attacks seem less severe during the course of their pregnancy, and others report that their attacks become more frequent and stronger during pregnancy.
Migraines are vascular headaches that occur when the blood vessels in the brain constrict, then dilate. They begin with a throbbing pain localized on one side of the head, which quickly grows stronger. A person may then begin to experience nausea or vomiting.
The two most common types of migraine headaches are referred to as “classic migraines” or “common migraines”. Classic migraines involve the appearance of an aura (where a person sees flashing lights or lines or experiences temporary vision loss) approximately 10 to 30 minutes prior to a migraine attack. Symptoms of a classic migraine also include an intense, throbbing pain around the forehead, temple, ear, jaw or around the eyes. People who suffer from common migraines usually do not experience an aura. However, they may experience a wide range of symptoms prior to an attack, including fatigue, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.
You can learn more about pregnancy stages and get week by week pregnancy information in our website.
Treating Migraines During Pregnancy
“For pregnant women who suffer from migraines, between 40 to 60 percent get better and some get worse,” says Dr. Chandler Mesher, clinical assistant professor of the department of obstetrics and gynecology. Despite these two scenarios, medical experts agree that though the mom-to-be may be suffering, there are no dangers to her developing baby during a migraine attack.
For women trying to conceive, most specialists agree that they should discontinue medication wherever possible. Prescription migraine medications such as Imitrex, Zomig and Relpax and Barbiturates taken during pregnancy stages (including the period of time before a pregnancy has been confirmed by a primary care physician) are dangerous to the developing newborn. These medications are known to cause birth defects, including retardation, malformations and possible stillbirth. However, painkillers such as acetaminophen (found in Tylenol) are widely considered to be safe to take during pregnancy for pain relief. A mom-to-be should always consult with her physician prior to taking any medication during pregnancy.
Non-medicinal migraine treatments may include the practice of several forms of relaxation techniques, including meditation or yoga. Some women find relief just by lying down in a darkened, quiet room.
Also make sure you are maintaining a regular eating schedule, as low blood sugar may bring on a migraine attack. A way to avoid this is by eating smaller, yet more frequent portions of food throughout the day. Up your fluid intake, advises Dr. Mesher. “It is important for pregnant women to keep themselves hydrated [because a lack may bring on an episode]“, he says.
Because fatigue is such a common side affect of pregnancy, make sure you get plenty of rest. “Listen to your body”, says Dr. Jayce O. Awrie, an obstetric internist at Women and Infant’s Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island. “A headache is a warning sign that you may be overdoing it. It’s important for expectant women to make certain lifestyle adjustments [such as] learning to let go of things in order to get the proper rest.”
If you have suffered from migraines prior to conceiving, it is highly recommended that you learn to understand exactly what triggers your attacks. Common triggers of migraine attacks include emotions such as stress, anxiety and anticipation; environment changes in light, weather and altitude; and foods such as red wine, aged cheese and chocolate. Try writing down your migraine attack triggers and experiences in the form of a journal. “This is really recommended so you can learn when an attack occurs, how often and what you were doing prior to an attack,” says Dr. Awrie.
Dr. Awrie and Dr. Mesher warn that a new, unexplained headache in a pregnant woman might be a warning sign for a potentially dangerous condition in pregnancy known as pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy-related high blood pressure that presents itself after the 20th week of pregnancy. It occurs in an estimated 3 to 4 percent of pregnancies and is the leading cause of maternal and fetal death in the United States, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Check our article for more detailed information on this subject : What is Preeclampsia in Pregnancy?
The doctors advise expectant women to notify their caregivers of any concerns, including if an unexplained headache lingers for more than a few hours, dissipates to only reoccur, is accompanied by vision problems, numbness or weakness in the limbs or comes on with a fever.
Remember to keep the lines of communication open with your physician. There is no need to be afraid to notify her about any symptoms that you may be experiencing. “Listen to your body, and it is so important to talk with your doctor to address any concerns or symptoms that you are experiencing,” says Dr. Awrie. “There are treatment options available to women, and there is no need to suffer.”
Our articles are prepared to give advice. You should consult your doctor for exact information.