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Pregnancy Problems

Migraines During Pregnancy

How can migraines can affect you and baby during pregnancy and ways to safely treat them.

What is a migraine during pregnancy?

A migraine is a pulsating headache that’s caused by the dilation of blood vessels in the brain. Most people who get migraines know they have them because they’re simply different from regular headaches. Sometimes there’s nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light, and sometimes there’s an “aura” — a kind of a glow or wavy line around the things you see. If you get migraines, you're probably wondering how to safely treat them during pregnancy.

What are the signs of a migraine during pregnancy?

You can often tell a migraine is about to set in since it can start out very dull and slowly become severe and constant.

Are there any tests for migraines during pregnancy?

There are tests for migraines. But you might not get them during pregnancy. Often, doctors diagnose migraines based on just a physical exam, your medical history and your symptoms. If the migraines are severe, or the diagnosis is questionable, you could be given an MRI or a CT scan.

How common are migraines during pregnancy?

According to, about 29.5 million Americans suffer from migraines, and they’re more common in women. “Usually, a third of the time the migraines get worse, a third of the time they get better, and a third of the time they stay the same during pregnancy,” says Lara Simondi, a certified nurse-midwife at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

How did I get this migraine?

Certain foods, drinks, behaviors and even environments can trigger a migraine — everyone's different about what sets them off. “Often, it’s when you’ve gone four to six hours without eating, or if you’re dehydrated,” says Simondi.

How will my migraine affect my baby?

It won’t! But a migraine could be a sign of a more serious condition, so definitely keep your doc in the loop. And call right away if you’re also experiencing fever or blurred vision, or if your migraine just doesn’t seem to go away. Certain medications could affect baby, so be sure to check with your doc before taking anything.

What’s the best way to treat a migraine during pregnancy?

Sleep, cold showers, cold compresses, exercise, yoga and meditation often help. Stay away from popping aspirin or ibuprofen, which aren’t okay to take during pregnancy (unless your doc makes a well-thought-out exception). But you can take acetaminophen (Tylenol). “Be careful not to exceed 3,000 mg of Tylenol in a 24-hour period,” says Simondi. If the migraine is particularly bad, go to your doc to see if a prescription is in order. “Reglan is often prescribed in combination with Tylenol,” says Simondi. “Some pregnant women take Fioricet, but it doesn’t seem to work as well for my patients.”

What can I do to prevent migraines during pregnancy?

“Keep a diary to get to the bottom of what triggers your migraines,” says Simondi. And then, of course, avoid that stuff.

What do other pregnant moms do when they have migraines?

“I have always been a migraine sufferer and this pregnancy is no exception. However, I spoke with my dr about it and she recommended that I take magnesium supplements. Perfectly healthy for baby. It really is helping. She said I can take 400 mg of magnesium oxide per day. Apparently, a lot of migrainous headaches are due to a mag deficiency. I take the supplement daily, and I have noticed a big difference in the amount of headaches and if I do have one, the pain seems to be more bearable.”

“I have migraines almost daily. My ob and neurologist approved me to take 1000 mg of Tylenol and 10 mg of reglan. Sometimes it works great sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes caffeine and Tylenol will take the edge off it... I also put hot and cold compresses on my forehead and neck, whatever feels best that day.”

Are there any other resources for migraines?

American Headache Society

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

American Pregnancy Association

Plus, more from The Bump:

Headache relief without medication?

Is caffeine okay during pregnancy?

What medications are safe during pregnancy?

By The Bump Editors