Migraines & pregnancy

Suffer from migraines? You aren’t alone. Headaches are quite common during pregnancy, affecting between 15 and 20 percent of pregnant women. Headaches are the most common neurological problem encountered during

Your question
I always get migraine headaches. Is there anything I can do?

David Barrere, MD, FACOG answers

Women with a history of headaches are more at risk while pregnant. However, in some studies, women with migraine headaches actually show a marked decrease (of about 80 percent) in their symptoms while pregnant. Explaining such a paradox is difficult.

When migraine headaches do strike, try to identify a possible cause (certain foods, sleep deprivation, stress etc.). Often, however, a primary factor cannot be identified. Lying down in a quiet, dark room and using an ice pack or cool facecloth may help reduce the pain. If the migraines are severe enough to make eating impossible, cause nausea or otherwise affect your health, supportive therapy with both non-narcotic and narcotic medications is generally recommended.

Treatment depends upon your symptoms and how far along you are in pregnancy. For short durations, non-steroidal medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen can be used safely. However, they should be avoided late in pregnancy due to potential effects on your baby such as premature closure of the ductus arteriosus (the main blood vessel of the heart connecting the pulmonary artery to the aorta).

Beta-blockers can be used safely, but close surveillance of your baby’s growth is necessary. Other possible remedies include calcium channel blockers or medications such as fluoxetine (Prozac). In most circumstances, there’s an effective therapy — so talk to your caregiver.


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