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Migraine in pregnant women: Symptoms and treatment

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Migraine in pregnant women: Symptoms and treatment

Migraine is a severe disorder, quite common in women. What causes migraine during pregnancy? What are the symptoms? Parents.co.uk tells you everything you need to know about migraine in pregnancy.

Table of contents

Between 15 and 17% of women suffer from migraines. Hormonal changes at different times in a woman’s life are among the causes that provoke them. Paradoxically, during pregnancy, migraines tend to disappear.

Headaches, nausea: the symptoms of migraine

Migraines are characterized by headaches of greater intensity than ordinary headaches. The pain is often located on one side of the head and is usually concentrated in one eye.

They may be associated with other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or hypersensitivity to light or noise. Often they are aggravated by movement, so it is necessary to lie down in a dark room and avoid all external stimulation.
Occasionally the seizure may be preceded by “auras.” These are visual effects of various kinds: flashes of light, brightly colored lines, or double vision. In some cases, speech difficulties may occur. These symptoms usually disappear after 15 to 30 minutes and are replaced by severe headaches. The duration of the migraine attack varies: from 12 to 24 hours.

How does pregnancy affect migraines?

Good news! Migraines improve or disappear in 60 to 70% of women, especially during the last two trimesters. This can be explained in part by the absence of hormonal fluctuations linked to menstrual cycles. Sometimes the first migraine episode occurs during pregnancy, and sometimes migraines are exaggerated during the first trimester. Unfortunately, after delivery, the frequency of migraines generally returns to the same level as before the pregnancy, which is valid from the first week post-partum.

Preventing migraine during pregnancy

Certain factors can trigger an attack. It would help if you, therefore, tried to avoid them. These are lack of food or sleep, fatigue, exposure to bright light or noise, changes in weather conditions, stress or anxiety, certain foods such as chocolate, alcohol (which should be avoided during pregnancy), cheese, or foods containing sodium glutamate. It should be noted that sudden cessation of caffeine consumption can also lead to migraines.

Migraine during pregnancy: how to get over it and avoid it?

Small tricks can reduce the frequency or severity of headaches and, more specifically, migraines during pregnancy. You can use a cold, wet compress to apply to the base of the skull. Similarly, splashing cold water on the face can provide relief. Avoid dehydration and drink frequently. Exercise regularly: it reduces the stress and tension that cause the crisis. Try relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation. To reduce muscle tension, get a massage.

Which medication for migraine during pregnancy?

However, some pregnant women suffer from more severe migraines that require medication. Many medications are contraindicated during pregnancy and breastfeeding, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and aspirin depending on the stage of pregnancy. Your doctor will prescribe those that pose no risk to the embryo or fetus. These are mainly paracetamol. If it is not effective, other medications can be taken from time to time, depending on the term of the pregnancy. In case of nausea or vomiting, a treatment will be put in place to reduce their importance.

It should be noted that if an essential treatment was prescribed before the pregnancy, it must be reviewed by the prescribing physician to ensure that it is compatible with the pregnancy or adapted if necessary.

Migraine and pregnancy, beware of self-medication

As for other pathologies that occur during pregnancy, self-medication is also contraindicated, as it can expose the embryo to risks. The best thing to do is to seek advice from your general practitioner, gynecologist-obstetrician, midwife, or pharmacist before taking any medication. As a first step, you can also visit the Crat website, the teratogen reference center, which indicates whether or not a particular drug is compatible with pregnancy and breastfeeding.


Pregnant women who have migraine headaches are more likely to do so in the first trimester, when estrogen levels, among other things, are still fluctuating. Headaches may be a symptom of early pregnancy for many women.

If you’ve experienced migraines in the past and are taking or have taken medication for them, speak to your doctor. Aspirin may be included in certain migraine treatments, which are not suggested during pregnancy unless the benefits exceed any potential dangers.

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