If you had migraine headaches before becoming pregnant, you might experience more of these sometimes disabling headaches during pregnancy. On the other hand, you might experience fewer. The hormonal changes that go along with pregnancy can trigger more migraines or calm them, depending on your individual sensitivities. Some women even have their FIRST migraine headache during pregnancy. If you suddenly develop a migraine headache during pregnancy and you’ve never had one before, check with your doctor. A headache can also be a sign of a pregnancy-related condition called pre-eclampsia that needs close monitoring and treatment.
If migraines are “old hat” for you, it’s still nice to know what to expect when you’re pregnant. Unfortunately, whether you experience more or fewer headaches is hard to predict. It depends on how your body responds to the hormonal changes taking place in your body. It also depends on factors like stress and fatigue that commonly trigger migraines. Other factors that can bring on a migraine for some women include sudden changes in temperature, a drop in blood sugar, bright lights, loud noises, and certain foods. Avoiding known migraine triggers may help ward them off these headaches or reduce their frequency.
If you don’t know what’s triggering your headaches, keep a headache journal. In your journal, write down what you eat at meals and your level of stress. Also, document any migraines you experience and how long they last. If you do this for a few weeks, you’ll notice patterns such as certain foods trigger the symptoms. If you can identify them, take steps to avoid them.
Some common migraine triggers, although they don’t apply to everyone, include caffeine, food additives (particularly MSG and nitrates) in processed foods, artificial sweeteners, chocolate, smoked fish, and some fruits, beans, and nuts.
It’s best to consult with your doctor before taking any medication for a migraine. Acetaminophen is an option, although most doctors don’t recommend taking ibuprofen or aspirin. Most medications that prevent migraines are also off-limits if you’re pregnant. Most of these medications are not documented to be safe during pregnancy. A mild sedative combined with acetaminophen may be appropriate for severe pain. Talk to your doctor about this. Otherwise, don’t take the risk. One of the best strategies for easing the pain is to lie in a cool, dark room and practice breathing deeply. How about prevention?
Hopefully, you’ll be one of the lucky ones who has fewer migraines during pregnancy. If not, give these strategies a try.
American Pregnancy Association. “Migraines During Pregnancy”
WebMD. “Migraine Headaches and Pregnancy”