Migraine causes painful headaches that can feel like an intense throbbing or pulsing pain on one or both sides of the head. A person with migraine headaches may also have sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and fatigue.
This is a common occurrence and is usually no cause for concern.
This article discusses migraine headaches in pregnancy and pregnancy-safe treatments, causes, and when to talk with a doctor.
Headaches are common in pregnancy, with migraine headaches being one of the most common types.
More than half of people who experience migraine headaches during early pregnancy report a decrease in later pregnancy.
When a person experiences migraine, they usually feel an intense throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head.
The pain can be in any part of the head, but a person often feels it:
- in the temples
- behind one eye
- behind the ear
Other symptoms can accompany the pain. These can include:
Experts are not clear on the exact cause of migraine. However, they think it is related to the abnormal functioning of the brain’s blood vessels.
Certain triggers may cause the blood vessels to overreact, causing migraine headaches.
These triggers include:
- certain foods
- caffeine or caffeine withdrawal
- bright lights
- strong smells
- hormonal changes
- lack of sleep or too much sleep
Pregnancy can exacerbate some of these triggers.
Find out more about migraine.
Early pregnancy is a time of fast hormonal changes. Many people also cut down on caffeine during this time and find themselves under stress preparing for the baby.
In addition, pregnancy can heighten a person’s sense of smell and cause fatigue.
While people may find their headaches increase in early pregnancy, over half report that migraine headaches occur less often during later pregnancy.
According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), while migraine headaches cause discomfort and pain for the pregnant person, there is no risk to the developing fetus.
Experiencing migraine headaches during pregnancy is also a risk factor for stroke.
Usually, migraine headaches during pregnancy are no cause for concern. A person should consult a doctor if they are worried about these risks.
The doctor will discuss the risks of complications and how to decrease them.
A doctor will be very careful about prescribing medications for migraine during pregnancy. This is because many drugs can pass through the placenta to the developing fetus, which may cause adverse effects.
A pregnant person may wish to avoid most pharmacological interventions for migraine headaches.
Instead, they may wish to try home remedies for migraine headaches, including:
- resting in a dark, quiet room
- applying an ice pack to the head
- neck and scalp massage
- drinking enough water
Lifestyle changes and self-care can help manage a migraine during pregnancy. Steps a person can take include:
If a person experiences migraine headaches for the first time during pregnancy, they should consult a doctor to rule out other, more serious causes.
A person should also contact a doctor if their headache occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy or if they also
- pitting edema, or visible swelling
- visual disturbances
- epigastric pain, or pain in the upper abdomen
- pain in the right shoulder
- high blood pressure
These can indicate serious pregnancy complications.
The following provides some answers to common questions about migraine and pregnancy.
Can migraine cause a miscarriage?
According to CHOP, migraine during pregnancy does not harm the fetus.
Is it normal to experience migraine during pregnancy?
Migraine is typical during early pregnancy. As many as 15–20% of pregnant people experience migraine at some point.
A person should consult a doctor if they have never experienced a migraine-like headache before pregnancy, if their migraine happens after 20 weeks, or if they have other, more serious symptoms such as pitting edema or high blood pressure.
Is migraine common in the second trimester?
Migraine generally improves after the first trimester.
Over half of people find that migraine occurs less often later in pregnancy.
Experiencing migraine headaches during pregnancy can be uncomfortable and painful, but it is common, and there is usually nothing to worry about.
Most of the time, migraine is not a cause for concern during pregnancy and will improve during later pregnancy.
A person should talk with a doctor immediately if they have migraine headaches for the first time during pregnancy or if they notice visual disturbances, swelling, or high blood pressure.
In some cases, this could indicate pregnancy complications.