How to Fight Migraines During Pregnancy

A new study found that migraine may increase health risks for you and your baby. But getting a handle on these vicious headaches can help.

by Lara DeSanto Health Writer

Migraines are already the worst. Having to deal with them during pregnancy—and risk serious health problems for you and your baby—is enough to, well, make your head throb.

Three out of four migraine sufferers are women, according to the Office on Women’s Health. New research suggests that the intense headaches may not only increase the mom’s risk of high-blood pressure and preeclampsia, it can also contribute to preterm delivery, low birth weight, and respiratory-distress syndrome in the baby, according to a study of nearly 23,000 pregnancies among women with migraine in Denmark.

The good news is that treatment can help, said lead study author Nils Skajaa, Epidemiologist Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Aarhus University Hospital, in a press release.

The study, published in the journal Headache, found the increased risk was associated with migraines themselves—not the treatments women may have been taking. This means that, thankfully, women can still receive migraine treatment during pregnancy if they so choose.

Most standard treatments for migraine are safe during pregnancy, although you should always check with your doc to make sure. You can also search MotherToBaby, a handy website from the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists, to find out more about the safety of different drugs during pregnancy (and during breastfeeding). They even have a tool that allows you to chat with a live expert who can answer medication questions.

And there’s more good news: Between 50% and 80% of women with migraines find that their symptoms lessen during pregnancy, according to research—perhaps because the body makes more of the hormone estrogen, which may help dampen the pain.

Looking for non-drug ways to reduce your risk of a migraine attack during pregnancy? Try these strategies from the American Migraine Foundation:

  • Know your triggers. Many people find that chocolate, processed foods, and caffeine trigger their migraines. Keep a migraine diary to try to pinpoint your personal triggers, then avoid them.

  • Prioritize sleep. It’s no secret that pregnancy is exhausting. And when you have migraines on top of a growing baby in your belly, sleep is even more vital. Try as much as possible to stick to a regular sleep schedule. Try these sleep hygiene tips to boost your chances of not just sleep quantity, but quality.

  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Just like your body needs more sleep when your pregnant, it also needs more water. And hydration combats migraines, too—so drink up! Consider carrying a water bottle with you at all times to encourage you to keep hydrating on the go.

  • Make a plan. While many women are lucky to have fewer migraines during pregnancy, it’s wise to prepare for one. Don’t try to tough it out: Instead, know which meds work for you (and which are safe to use when you’re expecting—see above) and which other strategies can help relieve your pain—for example, lying in a dark, quiet room with a cool washcloth can be soothing during an attack. Here’s a list of some other comfort items that can help you get through a migraine.

Lara DeSanto
Meet Our Writer
Lara DeSanto

Lara is a former digital editor for HealthCentral, covering Sexual Health, Digestive Health, Head and Neck Cancer, and Gynecologic Cancers. She continues to contribute to HealthCentral while she works towards her masters in marriage and family therapy and art therapy. In a past life, she worked as the patient education editor at the American College of OB-GYNs and as a news writer/editor at