If you’ve ever had a migraine, you know that it’s not just a typical headache. Migraines occur more commonly in women than in men, so the chances that you’ll experience one between the ages of 10 and 45 are high. While some women suffer from frequent migraines, many people get them randomly with no clear trigger. They can be debilitating, and they’re sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Physiologically, a migraine is in fact different than a tension or a stress headache. They’re caused by a dilation of the blood vessels in the brain. Because pregnancy has such a profound effect on the hormones in your body, the chances of you getting a migraine during gestation are even higher than normal.

If you’ve never had a migraine before, you might suffer from your first during pregnancy, and you might even have more than one. Conversely, if you got a lot of migraines before you became pregnant, you might notice that you don’t get any between the moment of conception and birth. If you’ve never had one, it might be difficult to recognize at first. Usually it starts off as a dull pain but grows into a constant throbbing. You might feel nauseated during it, and you might even have changes in your vision. You’ll be sensitive to light and sound, and you’ll feel the urge to crawl back into bed and draw the blinds closed until it passes.

One of the worst parts of getting a migraine while you’re pregnant is that you can’t take a heavy migraine medication because it could affect your baby’s development. Most contain aspirin. Luckily, there are a few home remedies that might help. First, you should try keeping a migraine diary. Every time you get a migraine, write down everything you ate, drank and did that day. Next time you get one, compare notes, and you might learn which foods or activities to avoid. You should also try applying heat to the affected area for as long as possible. Long naps are usually the best form of relief and they induce quicker recovery. If you can muster up the energy, take a hot shower to relieve the pain. You should also try exercising more often and doing relaxation exercises, such as yoga, to prevent migraines from coming back. These activities will make vascular dilation in the brain less likely, which will lower your risk.

Source: Stephen A. Contag et al: Migraine During Pregnancy: Is It More Than A Headache? Nature Reviews and Neurology Volume 5 pp. 449-456 August 2010

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