Nineteen percent of women of childbearing age suffer from migraine headaches. Pregnancy seems to protect women against migraines because the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, remain constant. The fluctuations associated with the menses do not occur. If a woman does suffer from migraine during pregnancy, it usually subsides after the first trimester.
There are women who do not find relief from migraines during pregnancy, and researchers are not sure why this is so. They think it might be because of individual differences in women’s estrogen receptors, which determine how a woman will respond to hormonal changes.
Migraines usually strike during the first trimester of pregnancy, when the fetus would be most susceptible to drug-induced deformities. As a result, all medications should be avoided. After the first trimester, your doctor may consider prescribing preventive drugs or analgesics for acute headaches, but you should not take any of them without serious consideration of possible consequences.
No self-help techniques have been created to help pregnant women with headaches. However, with your obstetrician’s approval, you might benefit from some of the following approaches:
- Relaxation exercises
- Eliminating migraine food triggers: chocolate, aged cheeses, alcohol, peanuts, fresh-yeast breads, citrus fruits, meat cured with nitrates, pork, and Lima and navy beans
- Cold packs
- Exercise, such as running
- Neck-relaxation exercises
Postnatal or postpartum headaches
After labor and delivery, it is common for new mothers to suffer from headaches, usually tension-type.
Migraine sufferers may also get postnatal migraines, although the headache will probably be milder than a typical full-blown attack. Postpartum headaches correlate with the sharp fall in estrogen and progesterone levels that follow labor and delivery.