Pregnancy Migraines: How To Safely Treat Headaches

With an increase in blood volume and hormones circulating throughout your body there’s a slew of less-than-pleasant symptoms one can anticipate when they’re expecting.

While most pregnant women are well aware of morning sickness, stretch marks, and swollen feet even before they conceive there’s yet another all-too-real issue that isn’t commonly talked about: pregnancy migraines. In fact, the American Pregnancy Association states that headaches are one of the most common symptoms of pregnancy.

Even Chrissy Teigen, who’s currently pregnant with her second child, recently took to Twitter to share her personal struggle with the very real (and painful) symptoms. “I love being pregnant. I like it more than not being pregnant. But the headaches, my god the headaches. Someone…please help. Don’t say water. Or Tylenol. Or iron. Or magnesium. I need witchcraft.”

What causes them and what can you do to avoid them? We turned to Susan Hutchinson, MD, Medical Advisor of MigraineX, who offered up tips for dealing with the symptoms when they spring up.

What causes pregnancy migraines? 

“Top causes for migraine during pregnancy include stress, changes in weather and/or barometric pressure, dietary triggers, lack of sleep, changes in blood sugar, and poor lifestyle. Headaches are most common during pregnancy in the first trimester when hormone levels are rising and have not yet stabilized. They tend to get better during the 2nd and 3rd trimester and then often increase after delivery due to a precipitous drop in hormone levels. Stress during pregnancy is a strong trigger for migraines especially stress in the work environment. Women, in my opinion, often feel they need to be at their best all the time, at work and in home. That can cause undue pressure to perform “at all costs” and that cost could be an increase in migraines during pregnancy. As women we need to learn to take care of ourselves especially when a developing fetus is involved.”

How can you avoid them?

“To limit the onset of migraines, women need to know their migraine triggers and try to avoid them if possible. If avoidance is not possible such as a weather-related trigger, be prepared with treatment both preventive and acute. Treatment, when pregnant, should be non-pharmacologic as much as possible to protect the fetus. Non-pharmacologic treatment can include adequate hydration, good eating habits, adequate sleep, physical therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture and for prevention and treatment of weather-related migraines, the use of MigraineX ear plugs in conjunction with the weather alert app.”

What natural treatments would you recommend? 

“Natural treatments pregnant women can try include Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) and Magnesium for prevention. The recommended dose is approximately 200 mg twice a day for both. Essential oils including lavender, peppermint, spearmint, and eucalyptus may be helpful and can often be rubbed onto the temples to treat or prevent a migraine. Exercise, physical therapy, massage therapy, and acupuncture can be helpful. To address weather-induced migraines, the use of the MigraineX ear plug device may be helpful and is completely natural.”

How do the ear plugs work?

“The MigraineX ear plugs (also referred to as ear pressure regulating device) work by decreasing the difference in the external ear pressure versus the inner ear pressure. For example, a change in weather may cause a drop in barometric pressure. This pressure change in the external environment and external ear canal can induce a migraine in susceptible individuals. By minimizing that difference in air pressure, the migraine can be prevented or lessened. Medication may still be necessary but the MigraineX device can help with overall treatment in a safe, non-medication way. The ear plugs can be placed in the external ear canal as a preventive treatment if the individual is alerted to an upcoming change in barometric pressure via an app that can be downloaded to a mobile device and is free when with purchase of this device.”

When should you be concerned that a headache could be a bigger issue?

“A woman should be concerned that a headache could be a bigger issue if her headaches are new for her and were not experienced pre-pregnancy. Also, a woman should be concerned if new-onset aura occurs during pregnancy and was not experienced pre-pregnancy. Aura is the stage before the headache in which a woman could experience visual changes such as distortion in vision with wavy lines, tunnel vision, loss of vision, spots in her visual field, slurred speech, and/or weakness on one side of her body. Also, a progressive pattern of worsening headache not responding to treatment should always be evaluated and brought to the attention of her health care providers. Work-up may include brain imaging and blood tests and in rare cases, a spinal tap.”

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