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People who suffer from migraine headaches understand how big of an impact their occurrence can have on your lifestyle and ability and motivation to carry out daily tasks. Now, there are many treatments available to help mitigate the impact of migraine headaches and even to help prevent them from occurring. One of these drugs, Topamax, however, has been linked to birth defects for women who take the drug during pregnancy. This raises questions about what impact a pregnancy might have on migraines—or vice versa—and the treatment options available for pregnant women.

The good news for women who suffer from migraines and either are or are considering becoming pregnant, is that for millions of women, pregnancy can actually ease the migraine headache symptoms. Although researchers are not entirely sure what causes migraines, it is believed that the hormone estrogen does play a role, which is why during pregnancy many women experience a decrease in symptoms.

Since migraine headaches are such an unpredictable ailment, for many women, migraine headaches may not subside and may actually become worse. It is important to track the occurrence of migraine headaches and particularly any sort of triggers that might have caused it, such as dietary changes, stressors, or sleeping habits. Women who experience migraines during pregnancy should also speak with their physician since there is some evidence that headaches can be caused by a pregnancy complication called preeclampsia. Diagnosis of migraines is complicated during pregnancy since normal CT scans and other radiology tests cannot be used.

Unfortunately, many of the anti-migraine medications that are currently available should be avoided during pregnancy. A number of these drugs have been linked to birth defects in the fetus, including cleft palate, as well as other pregnancy complications and even miscarriage. Topamax, for example, can cause cleft lip and cleft palate, and was recently the subject of a new FDA warning. Any use of medications during pregnancy should occur under close supervision and after a risk assessment to the fetus.

While anti-migraine medications may not be advisable, there are still a number of pain relievers available to women who suffer migraines during pregnancy. In addition, a physician may recommend some lifestyle changes to avoid the migraine triggers and ease the pain.


  1. Gravatar for Tee


    This might be a stupid question - but if its known that pregnancy helps with the reduction and in some cases the removal of migraines (as it did with all mine) why is it not possible to mimic the pregnancy hormones as a treatment for migraine?

  2. Gravatar for Michael Monheit

    You ask a great question, Tee. The answer is one that needs to be supplied by someone with a medical background. I would imagine that it would have to do with getting the dosage correct and the fact that hormones taken by a pill are not bio-identical to those produced by your body, either in their micronization, the chemical composition, and their bio-availability. I welcome comments from anyone who is qualified to answer Tee's question or who can point to resources on this subject.

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