Migraines are intense headaches that can occur as a symptom of pregnancy. These are different from stress or tension headaches. It is also normal to experience your first migraine during pregnancy. Some studies have found a slight correlation between migraines and hormones. This makes questions about how to treat migraines naturally while expecting common.
Symptoms of migraines during pregnancy
A migraine usually starts out as a dull ache and then eventually becomes a throbbing, constant, and pulsating pain in the temples, in front of the head, or base of the head. Migraines are sometimes accompanied by nausea, sensitivity to light, vomiting, dizziness, and “auras,” which are spots or lines that can occur across one’s vision. The pain can sometimes make it difficult to focus, and symptoms can be debilitating.
Are migraines dangerous during pregnancy?
The only danger is when your headache may be a sign of something else. You should ALWAYS call your health care provider when:
- Your headache is accompanied by a fever
- Your headache persists for more than a few hours or returns frequently
- You are experiencing blurred vision
It is ALWAYS important to let your health care provider know when you are experiencing any headaches and the details about them.
Migraine triggers during pregnancy
Hormonal change is a common trigger for women with migraine. During pregnancy, oestrogen levels increase sharply, while progesterone levels decrease and rise again towards the end of the pregnancy.
Overall migraine improves during pregnancy especially during the second and third trimesters. This improvement may be due to the increased oestrogen levels and increased levels of natural pain-killing hormones (endorphins).
These hormones are several times higher during pregnancy, and though the relief from migraine attacks they provide might last the whole pregnancy, the levels settle back down after delivery, normally allowing migraine attacks to return.
However, not everyone will see an improvement in their migraine, especially in the early weeks of pregnancy. For some women, their migraine is unaffected. Some women experience worsening migraine during pregnancy although this is rare.
During breastfeeding, stable oestrogen levels continue to be protective against having headache again after pregnancy.
However you are affected, it can help to identify any migraine attack triggers that you have, such as lack of sleep, stress, missed meals and dehydration. Keeping a headache diary may help pinpoint your triggers so you can avoid those things. Log when the headache happened, what “triggered” it, and how long it lasted. Common triggers include but are not limited to:
Natural Remedies for pregnancy migraines:
During the first three months the symptoms of pregnancy can make your migraine worse. Morning sickness can mean that you feel like eating and drinking less which can cause low blood sugar and dehydration. If you are not careful this can make your migraines worse. You should try to eat small frequent meals and drink frequent small amounts of water to prevent this. You will also be helping reduce any pregnancy sickness. Other remedies may include:
- Dark Room — Often, a migraine can make you sensitive to bright lights. Find a dark room, and turn off any electronics.
- Nap — Lying down to take a short nap can help alleviate migraines. Many people report that an hour nap is often enough to stop the pain.
- Cold Pack — While lying down, place a cold pack or damp towel on your head. The cold should constrict blood vessels in your head and help alleviate the pain.
- Relaxation Techniques — Talk to your doctor about relaxation exercises that are safe during pregnancy. Relaxing the muscles around your back, neck, and head can release the pressure causing the migraine.
- Take care of yourself — Sometimes, migraines can be set off by dehydration, tiredness, not eating well, or lack of sleep. Try to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle, which can help mitigate the symptoms of migraines.
How to Treat Migraines when naturally doesn’t work
Sometimes, a migraine might continue to plague you, even after you have tried the above remedies. If the pain persists, you can take Tylenol; however, it is important to avoid Aspirin and Ibuprofen. These are not safe to take during pregnancy. If the migraines become a constant nuisance, you may want to talk to your doctor about alternative medications that are safe to take during pregnancy. You can learn more about which medications are safe during pregnancy here.
If you currently take pain medication for migraines, it is best to discuss with your doctor whether it is safe to continue using. It is best to avoid using any herbal remedies to alleviate migraines during pregnancy, as many have not been tested, and some have been shown to lead to complications.
Want to Know More?
Compiled using information from the following sources:
2. Bid MC: Migraine and Pregnancy and Breastfeeding