Chronic migraines can make anyone miserable, but for pregnant women the condition is especially challenging since treatment options are limited. While many doctors would consider the pain medication acetaminophen acceptable, many other commonly prescribed drugs are off limits. These medications include preventative and pain relieving varieties. Recently, the United States Federal Drug Administration issued a warning against pregnant women taking migraine drugs containing valproate. The basis for this announcement is that researchers found this ingredient may lower IQ scores in unborn fetuses. Although these drugs already come with warnings concerning the risks, such as birth defects, the latest research gave rise to even more concern. This certainly suggests it is critical to rely on drug free migraine treatments during pregnancy.
In addition to preventing chronic migraines, valproate is also used to treat epilepsy and bipolar disorder. The valproate drugs were found to be linked with an 8 to 11 point IQ deficit among 6-year-old children exposed in-utero, compared with children whose mothers used alternative anti-epileptic medication. The FDA recommended that women who may become pregnant not use valproate unless it is critical to manage a medical problem. Drug free migraine treatments include trigger avoidance, relaxation techniques, massage, biofeedback and sleep.
HealthDay news reported that a neurologist from the FDA issued the following statement: “Valproate medications should never be used in pregnant women for the prevention of migraine headaches because we have even more data now that show the risks to the children outweigh any treatment benefits for this use.” It wasn’t apparent from the study if there was a ‘safe period’ during a pregnancy in which to take this drug as a chronic migraine preventative. The women who were evaluated used the medication for epilepsy throughout their pregnancy.
When it comes to the health of an unborn child, the benefits from migraine preventative or relieving drugs are not worth the risks. Fortunately there are many drug free migraine treatment options, from preventative therapies such as lifestyle modifications to interventional pain management therapies.