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Migraines During Pregnancy: Causes, Treatment And Home Remedies

Migraines During Pregnancy: Causes, Treatment And Home Remedies

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Migraine is an intense headache, which occurs as a throbbing pain on one side of the head and can worsen sometimes. It can affect anyone, and pregnant women are no exception. However, managing migraines during pregnancy is difficult since taking pain medications in the first trimester is not advisable. It is therefore essential to understand the warning signs of a developing migraine and when to seek help. However, it is a blessing that migraine improves during pregnancy in some women (1).

Read this post to learn about migraines during pregnancy and how to manage the symptoms effectively.

How Frequent Are Migraines During Pregnancy?

The incidence and reoccurrence of migraine attacks in women vary widely. Some of them experience for the first time in pregnancy, while some women experience increasing migraine symptoms during the first trimester.

According to the American Migraine Foundation, around 50 to 80% of pregnant women experience reduced attacks (3). This reduction in symptoms is attributed to the increasing levels of estrogen during pregnancy.

What Are The Causes And Risk Factors Of Pregnancy Migraines?

Scientific findings state that naturally occurring inflammatory substances in the brain could cause severe migraines. The inflammation often hampers the blood vessels and nerves in the brain, causing exacerbating pain (2).

Some of the common triggers and risk factors of chronic migraines are as follows

  • Irritation in the eye
  • Change in the blood sugar levels
  • Starvation
  • Intake of coffee, chocolate, processed or fast food
  • Consumption of food containing chemicals and food enhancers, such as tyramine and monosodium glutamate present in aged cheese and soy products or fast foods
  • Sleep disturbances causing distorted sleep patterns or excessive sleepiness
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance
  • Having a family medical history of migraines
  • Skipping meals
  • Menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause
  • Exposure to bright light, loud noise, or strong smell
  • Consumption of wine and alcohol
  • Season and weather changes

What Are The Symptoms Of Pregnancy Migraines?

Based on the associated symptoms, migraines are classified into two types (4).

  1. Migraine with aura: People can experience sensory disturbances for up to an hour before the onset of a migraine, commonly known as aura experience. Such disturbances include tingling sensation, seeing sparks, bright spots, and difficulty speaking.
  2. Migraine without aura: People do not see an aura; however, they experience other migraine symptoms.
    Some of the signs and symptoms of migraine headaches during pregnancy are (5):
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Severe throbbing pain in one side of the head
  • Sensitivity to light, loud noise, or strong smell

It becomes essential to monitor the signs and symptoms of migraines during pregnancy. This information will be vital for a medical practitioner to understand the cause and give an effective management plan. One can note down the following details or mention them in their headache diaries.

  • Time of onset of symptoms
  • Were you at the home, workplace, or traveling when you experienced a migraine
  • In which activity you were involved when the symptoms began
  • What all eatables and drinks you have consumed throughout the day
  • Time of reoccurrence of symptoms

When To Seek Medical Attention?

Migraines can have various signs of onset, and the diagnosis is based on some specific symptoms (3). It is imperative to identify these initial symptoms and seek immediate medical attention, if:

  • Aura experienced for over an hour.
  • Symptoms do not subside for a long time
  • One-sided weakness
  • Levels of anxiety and consciousness changes
  • High blood pressure.
  • First-time symptoms of migraine during pregnancy.

How To Treat Migraines During Pregnancy?

Despite the doctor’s advice on avoiding medications, over 50% of women consume pain medications in their first trimester, and two-thirds take them throughout the pregnancy (3). It is, therefore, crucial to understand the available safe treatments for migraines during pregnancy.

Home Remedies For Migraines

Here are some at-home quick remedies that can soothe the grueling pain (6) (7).

  1. Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Try to stick to a routine, eat well-balanced meals, get consistent sleep, and include gentle exercise.
  2. Hot and cold treatment: A soothing cold and hot treatment can ease the headache. Wrap a towel around a cold pack place it on the head around the pain area. You can also apply a warm towel to the neck area to relax the muscles and ease the tension.
  3. Seatback and relax: Choose a quiet and dark place to seatback and relax to stay away from activities triggering a migraine.
  4. Get a massage: A good massage can help relieve anxiety, stress and soothe tension headaches.
  5. Consider biofeedback: A biohacker approach can help you understand the trigger for a headache. Fitness bands can be used to monitor changes in heartbeat and sleep patterns during the day. By recognizing your body signals, you can work on them to find relief.

Pain Medications For Migraines

Some of the safe migraine medications your doctor might suggest are as follows (8):

In the first trimester and beyond

  • Paracetamol/Acetaminophen helps reduce pain
  • Metoclopramide treats nausea and vomiting symptoms during pregnancy
  • Triptans, such as Imitrex and Amergecan, can ease migraine headaches

After the second trimester:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, can help. However, these can cause severe complications such as preterm birth and birth defects if consumed in the first trimester.

Some of the medications you should avoid

  • Aspirin: It can cause miscarriage and bleeding.
  • Opioids: These can cause severe complications, such as stillbirth, premature deliveries, and congenital disabilities.

How To Prevent Migraines During Pregnancy?

The following measures could help you stay away from migraine headaches in pregnancy (9).

  • Identify and avoid triggers that can lead to migraines and headaches.
  • Follow a healthy routine of daily activities, including a gentle walk or breathing exercise, and stick to them. That way, the body and the mind get accustomed to the timings.
  • Stay away from stress and anxiety by avoiding stressful activities and anxiety triggers.
  • Have a nutritious and healthy diet, do not skip meals, and follow a routine.
  • Get a good night’s sleep to help avoid stress and headache.

Is Migraine During Pregnancy Related To Baby’s Gender?

There is no scientific evidence stating that a baby boy in the womb can trigger a migraine. However, there are many fun ways to know the gender of the child.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is it normal to have migraines while pregnant?

Pregnant women are more prone to migraine headaches. It is due to changes in the estrogen hormone levels in the body (10).

2. Do migraines during pregnancy affect my baby?

Migraines affect the physical and mental health of the mother; however, there is no evidence that migraines affect the developing baby (11).

3. Do migraines get worse when pregnant?

Usually, migraines get worse during the first trimester. However, a reduction in the intensity and frequency of migraines is seen at a later stage of pregnancy (5).

Migraines during pregnancy can cause excruciating pain. Some women find it difficult to cope with it as certain medications are not good to take in pregnancy. However, there are few treatment options and medications available that can help a pregnant woman. It is essential to make a migraine management plan with the doctor by discussing individual migraine triggers.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Migraine in pregnancy.
    https://migrainetrust.org/live-with-migraine/self-management/migraine-in-pregnancy/
  2. Migraine.
    https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/migraine
  3. Migraine And Pregnancy: What Moms-to-Be Need To Know.
    https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/migraine-pregnancy/
  4. Differences in treatment response between migraine with aura and migraine without aura: lessons from clinical practice and RCTs.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6734209/
  5. Headaches during pregnancy.
    https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/headaches-during-pregnancy
  6. Headache and migraine remedies that are safe during pregnancy.
    https://utswmed.org/medblog/headache-migraine-pregnancy/
  7. Migraine in pregnancy: what are the safest treatment options?
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9825951/
  8. Headache and pregnancy: a systematic review.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5648730/
  9. Headaches in pregnancy.
    https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/pregnancy-symptom-checker/headaches-pregnancy
  10. Migraine Headaches During Pregnancy.
    https://www.chop.edu/conditions-diseases/migraine-headaches-during-pregnancy
  11. Migraine Headaches During Pregnancy.
    https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=90&contentid=p02476
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Anshuman Mohapatra

Anshuman Mohapatra is a biotechnology scientist with more than six years of research experience in analytical chemistry and biotechnology. He has submitted his Ph.D thesis at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT Guwahati) and served as a research fellow (JRF/SRF) during his Ph.D tenure. His research interest includes analytical chemistry, neurobiology and lipid disorder diseases. Three of his research... more