Unfortunately if you are prone to migraines prior to pregnancy, it is likely that you might encounter migraines during pregnancy too.
Changing hormones are believed to be a possible culprit. Researchers also believe that an imbalance in brain chemicals can irritate blood vessels on the brain’s surface, which then swell and cause that horrible pain response that you might be feeling.
Experts say that it is not uncommon for women to experience migraines mostly around weeks 6-8 and around 18-20 weeks of pregnancy when there are a lot of changes happening in the body.
Symptoms of a Migraine
It can certainly be a scary experience getting your very first migraine, let alone during pregnancy. What starts as a dull ache can become a heavy and painful throbbing, sometimes at the front of top of the head, base of the head, one side of the head, or temples. When the pain is severe, this may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
Some people may also experience visual symptoms like blind spots, jagged lines or dots, or a ‘migraine with aura’. Other may experience numbness in some instances, for example on one side of the face.
As hard as it may be, it is important to try to stay calm, as anxiety and panic can sometimes make your symptoms worse.
Seeing Your Doctor
It is always a good idea to see your doctor as a precaution if you experience a migraine during pregnancy, whether or not you have experienced a migraine before. Your doctor may look at pain or nausea management if your symptoms are severe, or investigate your symptoms further.
Importantly, not all medications for migraines will be safe to take during pregnancy. Your doctor will be able to advise what medications or treatments are safe for pregnant women.
It is a good idea to keep a migraine journal to help you or your doctor identify what your migraine triggers might be, and how long your migraines last. This might include some common triggers or events such as:
- Foods (or drinks) containing preservatives e.g. MSG (monosodium glutamate) and nitrates
- Artificial sweeteners with aspartame
- Dark chocolate
- Processed meats
- Exposure to bright lights or flashes
- Lack of sleep or insomnia, or fatigue
- A drop in blood sugar levels due to hunger
- High stress situations
- Lack of fresh air