Most pregnant women expect common symptoms like morning sickness and back pain. Pregnancy migraines, on the other hand, catch many by surprise. This is especially true because they can be unpredictable.
Some women who had migraines before pregnancy, for example, experience them more often when with child while others are stricken less frequently. Still other women who have never had a migraine suddenly have one for the first time during pregnancy.
Experts are not entirely sure why this is nor can they guess which camp a particular woman will fall into. Hormones are an obvious culprit but they are not the only one with experts also pointing fingers at chemicals in the brain which can affect blood vessels. Outside forces can be at work too including stress and fatigue, sensory stimulation like heat, cold, bright lights and loud noises, tobacco smoke and some foods and food ingredients.
Regardless of the cause, pregnancy migraines can be miserable with throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head. In addition, either before or during a migraine some women may experience an aura that can include light flashes, blurry vision, blind spots and/or tingling or numbness in arms or legs. Dizziness, nausea, vomiting and fatigue can also accompany the migraine.
Fortunately there are things women can do to try to help. For example:
- Keep a headache journal. Note when and where a pregnancy migraine strikes along with what has been eaten and any activities that were being undertaken in order to look for a trigger pattern.
- Avoid any known triggers. Watch out for chocolate, caffeine, nitrates and artificial sweeteners in the diet which are known to cause issues for some people along with anything else that has been personally determined. Staying away from smokers is a healthy practice anyway but especially important for women prone to pregnancy migraines.
- Take care of yourself. Sometimes easier said than done but try to find the time to get enough sleep and decompress as both fatigue and stress can contribute to migraines. Exercise may help lessen their numbers and severity. Drink enough water to stay fully hydrated and eat at regular intervals.
- If a migraine does strike, try to lay down as soon as possible in a dark quiet room with a cold compress. Sometimes taking a nap can decrease the pain or even stop it.
- Be sure to discuss pregnancy migraines with a healthcare provider. It is possible the headache could be caused by preeclampsia which is a serious pregnancy complication. If preeclampsia is ruled out, the doctor may be able to recommend relatively safe medications to take to ease the pain (always check before taking any medicines, herbs or supplements during pregnancy).
Written by Kristen Stewart
She is a freelance writer specializing in health, nutrition, parenting and lifestyle topics. To learn more, visit her website at www.kristenestewart.com.