A new medical research study published on the November edition of the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests that the use of peripheral nerve blocks during pregnancy is therapeutically effective for the treatment of migraines. Researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York reviewed cases of pregnant patients with an average age of 28 who had undergone peripheral nerve block therapy for the treatment of intense headaches. Nearly 40 percent of the patients in this study suffered from chronic migraines.
The results of this study are important for the obstetric community insofar as the limited treatment options available to women who suffer from migraines when they are pregnant. The study highlighted the fact that all the pregnant patients who were subject to oral and intravenous medication treatment for their migraines did not report any relief whatsoever, compared to a more than 80 percent success rate for patients who received nerve block therapy.
Women are far more likely to suffer from the migraine condition than men; when they get pregnant, their condition is likely to improve during their term. Many women stop getting migraines altogether during their pregnancies, which is a blessing since quite a few migraine medications are contraindicated for pregnant patients. Some women report getting their first migraine episode during their early pregnancy, and other women experience a lesser frequency of episodes but more intense headaches.
It is impossible to predict how the migraine conditions of pregnant women will develop, but many women tend to experience stronger tension headaches during their term. There may be a hormonal connection in this regard, but it is important to remember that these headaches are not migraines and they are less likely to trigger a migraine during pregnancy.
Headache Cautions during PregnancyWith migraines being less common and mild tension headaches more frequent during pregnancy, women should pay close attention if they experience a headache along with:
- A fever or body temperature higher than 100 F
- Blurry vision
- Severe nausea that does not go away
When the symptoms above are experienced in combination with a headache, they may signal a more serious condition such as pre-eclampsia or stroke, which may require emergency medical attention to protect the lives of mother and child.
Taking Medication for Migraines while PregnantOne of the few medications that can be safely taken during pregnancy for pain relief purposes is the over-the-counter analgesic acetaminophen. In some limited cases, obstetricians may recommend certain treatment options, including the nerve block applications discussed at the beginning of this article.
Managing Migraines during Pregnancy
Although many women experience migraine relief during their pregnancies, those who don't should be extra mindful about preventing episodes. To this effect, it is important to remember and document what may have caused a migraine episode during pregnancy. Keeping a migraine diary is very important in this regard, and tension headaches should be noted along with the information that is traditionally recorded such as food and environmental triggers.
Cool compresses applied to the forehead or the back of the neck are often effective relief for pregnant women who get tension headaches. Another relief method that often works is taking a cool shower or a warm bath. Going hungry or feeling thirsty while pregnant may trigger a stress reaction and thereby a migraine episode; it is crucial for pregnant women to stray properly hydrated during their entire term.
A complete lack of exercise during pregnancy could eventually lead to stress, which could in turn trigger migraine episodes. Yoga is the physical activity that is more likely to be recommended by obstetricians, followed by Pilates and walking. Holistic activities such as meditation and aromatherapy are also ideal, but pregnant women should always check with their primary care physicians before undertaking any of these activities.