What is a migraine? Why migraine happens. Who gets migraines? Treating migraines.

Pregnant with Headache

Headaches During Pregnancy

Pregnancy brings with it all kinds of physical and hormonal changes. As hormones are raging, emotions run amok and tension can increase. It is not uncommon for a woman to get tension headaches when she's pregnant. Many experts still can't put their finger on why they happen - they just do. Along with the usual culprits like hormones, kicking coffee cold turkey can trigger headaches as can a lack of sleep and food allergies. For pregnant women, headaches tend to come less and less during the course of the pregnancy, often diminishing by the time they reach the second trimester.

And Then There are Migraines!

Then there are migraine headaches. Unlike the tension headache, a migraine can be totally debilitating. Experts estimate that about one in five women has had a migraine headache at least once in her life and that about 15 percent of migraine sufferers get their first migraine when they are pregnant, usually during the first trimester.

A migraine headache presents with throbbing on one or both sides of the head and often the person with the migraine will feel nauseated and dizzy. Light sensitivity, and high reactions to noise and smells can send a pregnant woman into orbit - especially since her senses are already heightened with her pregnancy. A migraine headache can last from four hours to several days if left untreated, and physical activity can really increase the symptoms.

Early Warning Device - Aura

In some cases there are warning signs that a migraine is on the way. An aura, which may include visual changes like flashing light or blind spots, sensations of numbness, weakness or speech disturbances, can signal the onset of a migraine. Sometimes migraines suddenly strike and the pain can be so severe it causes  physical weakness. Women who are prone to migraines sometimes notice that they improve during pregnancy and others notice the exact opposite. The good news is that migraine sufferers don't appear to have a higher risk of pregnancy complications than other women who do not suffer with migraines.

Can't Take Drugs - Now What?

The tricky part is treating a migraine when pregnant. Acetaminophen is safe to take as directed, but most other headache medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen, as well as most migraine prescription drugs are not recommended for pregnant women. It's a good idea to consult the medical practitioner about which medications would be the safest and most effective to use during pregnancy.

Some Ideas to Ward Off the Pain

In the meantime, there are some things that may help ward off or relieve a migraine. Finding out what triggers the migraine is a great start. Cold compresses provide relief as does a cold shower (if you can handle it). The relief is quick but temporary. Keep the blood sugar up by not going hungry or thirsty and drink a lot of water to stay well hydrated, sipping if vomiting has occurred. Take naps in a darkened room to try to sleep it off. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of migraines, but don't overdo it. Relaxation techniques, massage and acupuncture are other methods of treatment for migraines during pregnancy.