how i’m dealing with migraines during pregnancy

during my pregnancy with mila, i was so happy because i only had one or two migraines the entire time. it was wonderful. especially because the prescription medication i take when i get migraines is not deemed safe during pregnancy.

this pregnancy, however, has been completely different. starting around week 15, i have been plagued with frequent migraines and terrible headaches that last as many as five days straight.

thankfully, being married to a neurologist has some perks and i was able to get an appointment with one of georgetown university hospital’s headache specialists — a doctor with a two year wait list. she shared some pregnancy safe tips with me to survive the headaches and migraines and i thought i would share them here in case anyone else is dealing with the same thing.

i’ve had migraines as long as i can remember. they started around kindergarten, when i was about 5-years-old.

until i was in high school, i didn’t realize there was anything that could be done for them. i was never taken to the doctor for them as a kid, just given a cold towel for my head and a bucket to throw up in.

once i took control of my own medical care, i started seeing a variety of primary care physicians and neurologists. i’ve had CT scans and MRIs; i’ve tried food journaling and journaling potential triggers (neither of which proved much); i’ve taken a bunch of prescription medicine, both daily and as needed. what works for me best right now, when i’m not pregnant, is taking 8mg rizatriptan when i feel a migraine coming on.

around the age of 26 i also developed a neurological disorder called trigeminal neuralgia. a lot of female migraine patients develop this after about 30 years of migraines. yay! basically, every now and then, and with no known trigger, my right side trigeminal nerve flares up into the worst pain you i could ever imagine. and i had a vaginal delivery of a nearly 8-pound baby without medication! trigeminal neuralgia pain is so bad, many doctors call it suicide disease.

anyway. back to help for migraines while pregnant.

here are things my doctor said studies prove work.

  1. when a headache or migraine starts, i take a combination of 500 mg excedrin tension, one benadryl pill and metoclopramide. moteoclopramide is a prescription nausea medication. the combination of these pills is very similar to what you would receive if you went to the emergency room with a migraine. acetaminophen, caffeine, a sleeping agent, and a nausea medication. for some reason, these medications break up headaches quickly. it has really worked for me, and i keep a supply with me all the time. important to note: excedrin tension is the only excedrin that doesn’t contain aspirin. aspirin is a no no while pregnant. so you can use generic, just make sure it doesn’t have aspirin.
  2. limit daily caffeine intake to 100 mg. this has been a tough one for me, but it’s worth it. this isn’t because caffeine is causing my headaches, rather, it allows me to use caffeine as a weapon against my headaches. on days i have a bad headache, i’ll drink a can of diet coke real quick with my medicine and the extra kick sometimes help kick the headache. but wow, 100 mg of caffeine is nothing. it’s one cup of coffee. it’s one diet coke from mcdonalds. needless to say, i’m a little sleepier than usual these days.
  3. 200 mg of magnesium daily. the doctor said this can help prevent headaches and migraines from even starting. i’m sure if it is working or if it is the fact that my pregnancy has progressed (20 weeks seems to be when women get the most headaches, according to the doctor and i’m now at 25 weeks). regardless, i’m taking this every night with my prenatals.
  4. prenatal yoga. this is something i need to get better at doing; the doctor i saw told me there are studies that show prenatal yoga provides many pregnant mamas some relief from headaches and migraines.

so far, step one and two have made a huge difference for me. after the baby comes, i will make another appointment with the headache specialist to talk about what i can do to alleviate headaches and migraines while nursing.

the only thing we really know about migraines is that we don’t know much. doctors don’t completely understand why they happen or how to fix them, so sharing what works for you might be helpful to someone else! especially when it’s information that comes from a headache specialist versus a primary care doc or general neurologist.

whether you’re pregnant or not, if you’re dealing with headaches or migraines, i’d love to hear what helps you.

*i am not a doctor. this is info from my own experience. you should talk to your doctor before trying anything recommended by a friend or the internet.

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he's a culinary institute of america grad in medical school. she's a journalist, who prior to their meeting, used the oven solely for storage.

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