Migraine Headaches During Pregnancy
Headaches are quite common in pregnancy. The most common are tension headaches and
migraine headaches. Most headaches come and go, but others may be more bothersome
or may be caused by other problems. It is important to talk with your healthcare provider
about any headaches you have before, during, or after pregnancy.
Many pregnant women have migraine headaches. Over half of women find that their migraines
happen less often in the last few months of pregnancy. But migraines may get worse
after birth, during the postpartum period. Although migraine headaches may cause you
severe pain, they do not harm your developing baby (fetus).
What are migraine headaches?
Migraines are a type of headache that affects nerves and blood vessels (neurovascular).
The 2 most common types of migraines are migraine with aura and migraine without aura.
Migraine with aura. This type of migraine includes an aura. You may see flashing lights or zigzag lines
or lose your eyesight for short time. This usually happens 10 to 30 minutes before the
migraine starts. The aura may also happen during the migraine.
Migraine without aura. This type of migraine generally does not have an aura. You may have other symptoms
before it starts.
How are migraine headaches managed in pregnancy?
Treatment of migraines in pregnancy may include things that soothe. This includes
cold packs, a darkened room, and sleep. Avoiding triggers such as certain foods and
stress may also be helpful. Any medicines to treat pain, nausea, and vomiting must
be carefully chosen. Here are some things to know about migraine treatment in pregnancy:
Many medicines pass through the placenta to your developing baby. You should not take
these medicines in the first trimester.
Other medicines can be harmful in later pregnancy.
Generally, small amounts of acetaminophen and caffeine are safe in pregnancy.
Do not take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen.
Migraine headache medicine such as sumatriptan and opioid pain medicines such as morphine
should be used only as directed by your healthcare provider. Opioid pain relievers
can be addictive for both you and your baby.
Talk with your pregnancy care provider about which migraine medicine can be used safely
What are the complications of migraines?
If you have a history of migraine headaches, and have no other health problems, migraines
during pregnancy are not usually a concern.
But if a first-time migraine-like headache occurs in pregnancy, it is important to check
for any other type of condition that may be dangerous. This includes bleeding in the
brain, meningitis, high blood pressure, or tumors. You may need further testing to
find the cause of the headache. This testing may include urine and blood tests.