Migraines are Linked with Pregnancy Complications

March 20, 2016

migraines and pregnancy

The results of a new study just released by Montefiore Health System indicate that women with acute migraine attacks who become pregnant are at a higher risk of pregnancy complications than women without migraines. This study indicated that migraines are linked with pregnancy complications and will be released next month at the American Academy of Neurology’s 68th Annual Meeting. Women in the study were more likely to experience preeclampsia, preterm delivery and low birth weight babies when they have suffered from migraine headaches while pregnant.

How Migraines Affect Pregnancy

Researchers looked at data from pregnant women over a five-year period and found that 90 of the women in the study sought care in an ER for migraine pain while pregnant. Over half of these women had at least one pregnancy complication. Thirty percent of the women delivered their babies preterm, or before 37 weeks gestation (a healthy gestational period for pregnant women is usually 38-42 weeks). In the normal population, only about 10 percent of women deliver their babies preterm.

About 20 percent of women in the study with migraines had preeclampsia during their pregnancy. Preeclampsia is a potentially serious condition of pregnancy that involves high blood pressure and can lead to organ damage and seizures. Migraine and preeclampsia may share some features related to vascularization and clotting. Because of this potential complication, both an obstetrician and headache specialist should follow women with migraine during pregnancy. In women without migraines, only between five and eight percent of pregnant women suffer from preeclampsia.

The study also revealed that 19 percent of women with migraine delivered babies with low birth weight (less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces). Normally, only about eight percent of pregnant women deliver a baby with low birth weight. Both low birth weight and preterm delivery could be influenced by preeclampsia because this condition can cause a woman to need to deliver her baby early before she suffers severe complications from the pregnancy.

Migraines and Pregnancy

The good news is that migraines usually actually improve during the second and third trimester of pregnancy. Because estrogen levels in pregnancy are almost twice what they are in a non-pregnant state, neurological and serotonin may be higher, leaded to less frequent migraines. Women with migraine without aura report an up to 70% reduction in symptoms during pregnancy. Women with migraine with aura may continue to experience migraine symptoms in the first trimester, but will likely see some improvement after the 13-week mark.

Prenatal Care with Migraines

If you suffer from migraines, it’s important to work with both a migraine headache specialist and an OBGYN while your pregnant. The medications you can take for migraine while you are pregnant may differ from the emergency and maintenance medications you take when you are not pregnant. If you are planning on becoming pregnant, it’s also advised to work with both a migraine headache specialist and an OBGYN to gain control of your migraines before beginning a pregnancy.


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