medications during pregnancyPregnancy means eating for two and it also means medicating for two, a challenge for many moms-to-be. Women prone to migraine headaches must be very careful about taking medication to ease the pain, without harming their growing baby. Many prescription pain medications come with the risk of early delivery, though a recent study from the Montefiore Headache Center resulted in good news for pregnant headache-sufferers. The study, conducted by a multidisciplinary team of researchers, found only a slightly higher risk of early delivery from use of migraine medication during pregnancy.

According to Matthew Robbins, MD, "acute migraine during pregnancy is a challenging condition for physicians to treat due to fears of harming the fetus and limited clinical research in the area." Robbins, Chief of Neurology at Montefiore's Einstein Division and Assistant Professor of Neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, led the team of researchers that included Tracy Grossman, MD, MS, who specializes in Obstetrics and Gynecology & Women's Health, and Ashlesha Dayal, MD, an Associate Professor in Obstetrics and Gynecology & Women's Health and Medical Director of Labor and Delivery at Einstein.

The research team analyzed data from patient charts dated July 2009 through January 2012 to identify 29 patients experiencing acute migraine without secondary headache. The average study subject was 27.5 weeks into pregnancy and 29 years old. Hispanic women accounted for 44.8% of the study group and 37.9% were African American. Migraine treatment included:

  • 79.3% -- acetaminophen
  • 58.6% -- intravenous (IV) metoclopramide
  • 55.2% -- combination treatment involving acetaminophen and IV metoclopramide
  • 34.5% -- oral or IV opiate
  • 24.1% -- acetaminophen, butalbital, and caffeine
  • 6.9% -- IV magnesium sulfate
  • 10.3% -- peripheral nerve block as a last resort

Of the 29 patients in the study group, 75.9% had full-term vaginal deliveries and 17.2% experienced preterm deliveries. Preterm deliveries account for 11.4% of all deliveries in the general public so the study findings conclude limited risk to the baby when the mother takes the most commonly used pain medications for migraine during pregnancy.