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Migraine During Pregnancy: Treatment and Causes


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Pregnancy isn’t always like a garden on roses. It is a phase that introduces intense and unexpected shifts to a person’s life – both physiologically and psychologically. While we often hear many pregnant women report experiencing light-headedness and brain fog and sometimes even migraine headache as a debilitating experience.

Over a billion people in the world suffer from migraine attacks at some point in their life. That’s a lot of people, right? And, there are chances of this condition amplifying during pregnancy. Since your body is already going through a lot of changes, something or the other might end up triggering a migraine, leading to excruciating pain and discomfort.

This article will further explore everything you need to know about migraine during pregnancy and what you can do to manage the condition.

What is Migraine?

A migraine is an extreme form of headache that results in painful throbbing at the side of the head. The pain typically localizes to one side of the head, leaving a pounding headache for a prolonged period.

Most people experiencing a migraine headache report that even the slightest sound leaves them in discomfort and sheer agony. Around 15-20% of pregnant women report experiencing migraine headaches during their gestation.

Despite how agonizing the experience is, migraine or any other types of headaches aren’t fatal. But, when you are already in discomfort from carrying life within you, the last thing you want is to sustain a painful headache throughout the day (sometimes even days).

What are the Common Causes of Migraine during Pregnancy?

Migraines can result from one of the two causes – genetic or environmental triggers. In most cases, it is due to genetic predisposition, meaning that the issue runs in the family.

However, in some cases, an environmental trigger like flashing lights can contribute to the issue. Sometimes, physiological complications like fluctuating hormones can also trigger a migraine attack in pregnant women.

Some of the common causes of migraine headache during pregnancy include:

Hormonal imbalance – pregnant women during their first trimester are prone to risks of migraine due to the fluctuating estrogen levels in the blood.

Excess blood volume – the blood volume during pregnancy increases quite rapidly to support the growth of the developing fetus. Studies have found that the change in blood volume might also trigger the onset of migraine.

Lack of sleep – not getting enough sleep throughout the day is another potential cause. Getting 8-10 hours of sleep every night is crucial for a pregnant woman’s health.

Stress – pregnancy is quite a stressful period in a woman’s life. You are either constantly hyperaware of things around or you are stressed about the health and well-being of your developing child. Not managing stress optimally during pregnancy might contribute to migraine.

Extreme light exposure – environmental factors like sudden exposure to bright and blinding lights can also lead to an onset of migraine headache. It could be sunlight or even artificial light exposure from fluorescent lights.

Lack of hydration – dehydration is one of the key physiological triggers of migraine. Since the body is undergoing a lot of changes during pregnancy, the last thing you want is to further contribute to the mess. Drinking 8-10 glasses of water every day is thus advisable for pregnant women who are experiencing migraine attacks.

Weather changes – the hot and cold weather interchangeably affects the body functions and migraine headache is one of the most common consequences.

How can I treat Migraines during Pregnancy?

If it was during a standard period, the most common treatment is to pop a medication or two and take some rest. But, when you are pregnant, there are certain restrictions, especially with respect to the medications you are taking.

So, finding pregnancy-safe remedies for migraine during pregnancy is crucial. We have sorted out some of the most common and effectively used options:

Avoid the triggers

If you have a history of experiencing migraine headaches, we’d recommend paying attention to the triggers. It could be a lack of sleep, bright lights, or even dehydration.

The best way for you to not experience migraine during your pregnancy is to avoid these active triggers. If there are foods that trigger your migraine, steer clear of that too.

Relax and rest in a dark room

The degree of photosensitivity increases when you have a migraine. So, even the smallest beam of light can make the headache worse for you. What you can do is retreat to your room, close the blinds, switch off all the lights and make the room pitch black.

Once done, lay down and get good quality sleep and rest to let the headache subside. Avoid using any kinds of digital devices too.

Use a hot or cold compress

Cold compress works miraculously in reducing the risks of migraine. If you feel one side of the head throbbing, placing a cold compress on that side can numb the pain.

But, if you feel tightness in the neck muscles, a hot compress on the neck can relieve the muscle tension and bring you some relief.

Is it Safe to Take Migraine Medications during Pregnancy?

When it comes to migraine in pregnancy treatment, we’d highly recommend sticking to the natural remedies as the first resort. If the pain doesn’t subside over time, that’s when you should consider seeing a doctor.

Not every medication approved for migraine is safe for consumption during pregnancy. So, having a doctor’s prescription allows you to be aware of the dosage and frequency of the permissible medications so you don’t experience any complications.

Acetaminophen and Metoclopramide are two of the safest medications for migraine during pregnancy. One reduces the pain while the other subsides the accessory symptoms of migraine, including nausea and discomfort.

Aspirin and opioids are completely prohibited for consumption during pregnancy, so avoid taking those at all costs.


What are the symptoms of migraine headaches?

The common symptoms of migraine during pregnancy include throbbing pain on one side of the head, photosensitivity, nausea, vomiting, muscle stiffness around the neck, etc.

Can a migraine hurt my baby?

Migraines during pregnancy have no direct impact on the baby’s growth and development in-utero.

How long do pregnancy migraines last?

Most pregnancy migraines can last for 3-4 days. But, it is a subjective experience, so the frequency and intensity of the symptoms will vary from one woman to the other.


Pregnant women are subjected to a lot of changes, including a recurring bout of migraine headaches. They are common, frequent but very uncomfortable. We hope this article gives you a comprehensive idea about migraine headaches during the pregnancy period and what you can do to manage the symptoms.

Srujana Mohanty
She is the Managing Editor of Cogito137, one of India’s leading student-run science communication magazines. She's been working in scientific and medical writing and editing since 2018, also associated with the quality assurance team of scientific journal editing. Majored in Chemistry with a minor in Biology at IISER Kolkata, Srujana loves doodling and watching series.


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