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A whopping 25 percent of women experience migraines over the course of their life.
The good news is that many women deal with migraines less during pregnancy. In fact, up to 80 percent of moms-to-be report a decline in migraine attacks.
Migraines during pregnancy are still considered a normal symptom. Like any other symptom, your healthcare provider will monitor it closely.
Still, it’s beneficial to understand this type of a headache and what it means to your pregnancy.
The Difference Between Headaches and Migraines
If you’re like most women, you’ve experienced several different kinds of headaches before.
All types of headaches produce an uncomfortable pressure or pain in your head.
Headaches are a widespread medical complaint for pregnant women. They can be caused by stress, dehydration, injury, co-occurring medical condition, medication, food, etc.
From a slight throbbing to what feels like a band around your head, these annoyances present themselves in many ways. And, they can last anywhere from 30 minutes to a week.
A migraine is a type of headache. However, because of its intensity and additional symptoms, it’s a category of its own.
When compared to a tension headache, for example, pain from a migraine is often considered moderate to severe.
- Seeing spots or flashes
- Temporary loss of vision
- Pain behind one eye
- Sensitivity to sound, light, or both
- Pain in the temples
As you may have guessed, a migraine can be debilitating. Unlike a headache, a migraine can stop you in your tracks, disrupting your regular lifestyle.
How Migraines May Impact Your Pregnancy
As mentioned before, 50-80 percent of women experience a decline in migraine attacks during pregnancy. That’s the good news!
The rotten news is that the first trimester may be the worst in terms of migraine attacks. Also, a migraine—during pregnancy or not—can often signify a more serious medical condition.
Unsurprisingly, your healthcare provider will keep a close watch on your migraine attacks. This is especially true if you experienced migraines before pregnancy and they’ve gotten worse since becoming pregnant.
Studies have shown that the risk of developing preeclampsia (and other vascular complications) increases when a pregnant woman experiences migraines. Particularly, when the mom-to-be already struggles with high blood pressure.
So, can migraines be prevented or managed during pregnancy?
Understand What Causes Migraines
To better manage migraine attacks during pregnancy, it’s vital to understand what causes them.
It’s possible that migraines are hereditary. Even so, both your environment and your genetics play a significant role.
- Certain foods (dark chocolate, cheese, etc.)
- Too much or too little sleep
- Hormonal changes
- Stress or anxiety
- Changes in routine
- The weather
- Too much screen time
- Food additives
Some women experience what’s known as an “aura.” An aura is basically a handful of hints warning you that a migraine is coming on. An aura can occur 10-30 minutes before a migraine attack hits.
- A sudden inability to concentrate
- Sensing tingling or numbness in either the face or hands
- Seeing flashes of light or lines
- Having an odd sense of smell or taste
Sometimes, your body warns you of an oncoming migraine days before it happens.
- Feelings of depression
- Stiffness in the neck
- Abnormal food cravings
- Frequent yawning
- Irritable feelings
Although many of these signs are subtle, they can give you a heads up. These clues give you the chance to take preventative measures.
Keep in mind that migraine triggers are the same for both pregnant and non-pregnant women. Essentially, knowing your own body is the best way to manage and prevent migraines.
Natural Ways to Avoid Migraines
When you become pregnant, you have to reevaluate your treatment method for migraines. Pregnant women can’t take the same medications as most other people. So, it’s a good idea to draw from your holistic well to manage migraine attacks.
In looking for natural ways to deal with migraines, consider these:
Know Your Triggers
Every person dealing with migraines has their own set of unique triggers. Some find that eating dark chocolate invites an attack. A change in the barometric pressure may impact others.
For you, it could be something different altogether. However, it’s worth taking the time to investigate.
Pay attention to those things that make you feel “off.” Even if they don’t cause a full-blown migraine, take note of them. Ultimately, these tiny observations may lead you to your big answer.
Furthermore, once you’ve identified your migraine trigger, avoid it. Granted, you can’t keep the barometric pressure balanced, for example.
However, you can install an app on your phone that will alert you of pressure changes. Also, you can stay indoors and practice relaxation techniques to ward off the pain.
There’s an answer to each trigger. Get to know yours.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Infinite is the number of jokes aimed at parents having sleepless nights. Yet, sleep basically empowers parents to be superhuman. In other words, sleep is super important to your overall health.
Sleep keeps your cognitive function optimal. And, it also keeps your physical body working at top-notch levels as well, which helps to avoid and manage migraines.
Let’s face it, pregnancy doesn’t bode well for comfortable rest. It can be hard to get the proper amount of sleep when you’re navigating a big baby belly.
So do the best you can. Try to regulate your circadian rhythm by establishing a bedtime routine. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Start prepping your body and mind for bed 30-60 minutes before you even lay down.
Stay Well Hydrated
As crucial as sufficient sleep, water is also essential to your health. In fact, dehydration is a leading cause of headaches. Migraines included.
When you go to the hospital for a migraine, the first treatment method is IV saline to combat dehydration. That’s how important it is to stay hydrated.
Remember, your body needs much more water now that you’re pregnant. While every person is different, the recommended amount of water is 8 cups. During pregnancy, that increases by 2-4 cups.
Getting enough sleep teamed with proper hydration are like the one-two punch against migraines.
Be Prepared with a Treatment Plan
During pregnancy, no longer can you simply pop a pill to avoid a migraine. Yet, this doesn’t mean that all medications are off-limits.
There are a handful of safe medications that your healthcare provider can recommend. These safe medications are unique to each pregnancy, so it’s vital to speak with your own provider about taking them.
When medications aren’t optional or preferred, try to practice relaxation techniques. Things like deep breathing, visualization, or yoga tend to work well for all headaches.
Plus, relaxation techniques enable you to get in tune with your body. So, you will recognize when something is off-kilter more quickly.
Enjoy the Experience!
Migraines may be a part of your pregnancy experience. But they certainly don’t have to ruin it for you.
By understanding migraines and their proven treatment methods, you can manage them better and fully enjoy your pregnancy experience.