How To Safely Treat Migraines During Pregnancy

Migraines affect people of any age or gender, but they are more prevalent among women compared to men. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 20% of women aged 18 and above reported experiencing acute migraines in 2015. Hormone fluctuations, as explained by WebMD, have a role in the frequency and severity of headaches among women. Per the American Migraine Foundation, migraine attacks often begin in a girl's first menstrual cycle and intensify during her childbearing years.


As migraines are so common among women, it's no surprise that they can occur throughout pregnancy — a period where your body undergoes various changes. Most headaches come and go, but others may be more lasting and irking. Some even experience migraine-associated symptoms such as nausea and temporary loss of sight. While these symptoms are not cause for concern, they do add to the discomfort of pregnancy. As unpredictable as migraine attacks are, they can be managed and even minimized. 

Non-medication approaches for migraines during pregnancy

First thing's first: you should monitor your migraine by noting down the things that trigger the attacks, such as light sensitivity, changes in the weather, or diets. Aside from hormone changes, missing meals and lack of sleep may also trigger migraine headaches, as suggested by a 2014 study on the causal relationship between eating behaviors and migraines. Keeping a specific journal will help you recognize a pattern and avoid specific triggers as well as allow your doctor to prescribe the most suitable solutions to reduce your symptoms.


Staying hydrated, taking magnesium supplements, and consuming caffeine a daily maximum of 200 milligrams of caffeine per day are some tried-and-true preventative methods to treat migraine, according to obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Tracy Grossman (via the American Headache Society). A good rest in a quiet, dark room for 20 to 30 minutes is also highly recommended. For better self-care, consider taking a biofeedback course to learn how to recognize your body signals and relieve discomfort.

If your migraine symptoms don't disappear within a day but rather worsen, you might need some over-the-counter relievers or a visit to a specialist for a proper diagnosis.

Safe medications to treat migraines during pregnancy

Since medicines can cross the placenta and reach your growing baby, any medications should be carefully chosen and approved by your doctor. "If a medication is needed, usually my first choice is to start the patient with Tylenol (acetaminophen) and sometimes combine that with the drug Reglan (metoclopramide)," says Dr. Amaal Starling, M.D., a neurologist and migraine specialist (via Everyday Health). Metoclopramide, an anti-vomiting medicine, can halt the migraine attack, while a bit of Benadryl with sedative effects can help you sleep your discomfort away, Dr. Amaal Starling adds.


According to UT Southwestern Medical Center, anti-inflammatory medicines are typically safe and effective when used in moderation. Midrin, a medicine containing acetaminophen and vasoconstrictive components, is frequently prescribed in combination with a light sedative. If taken as soon as the symptoms appear, Sumatriptan, or Imitrex, which has benefits for lowering blood flow to the brain, can also stop a migraine attack. Meanwhile, nerve blocks, in which an anesthetic is administered near the nerve to block pain, are considered a safe migraine intervention for pregnant women, as noted by the American Headache Society.

Also, refrain from taking NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen during pregnancy because they are linked to a heightened risk of miscarriage and fetal kidney issues, per a 2018 study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology


If you have a history of migraines and have been using medications, always double-check with your obstetrician and gynecologist about the safety of any interventions you employ during pregnancy. At the end of the day, your doctor is the one who can recommend the safest solutions for managing your pain without taking a risk to your baby's health.