Migraine during pregnancy: is it more than a headache?

Stephen A Contag, Heather L Mertz, Cheryl D Bushnell
Nature Reviews. Neurology 2009, 5 (8): 449-56
Migraine headaches have a female predominance with a peak in prevalence in the third and fourth decades of life. Women of reproductive age are liable to develop their first migraine while pregnant or exhibit changes in the character, frequency or severity of their headaches during pregnancy and the puerperium. The purpose of this Review is to examine the pathophysiology underlying the development of migraine headaches and the association of this pathophysiology with pregnancy-related complications. We also discuss the diagnosis and management of migraine headaches that precede pregnancy or develop de novo during pregnancy, placing an emphasis on the distinction between primary migraine headache and headache secondary to pre-eclampsia--a relatively frequent complication of pregnancy and the puerperium. We present the case of a woman with a history of migraine headaches before pregnancy, whose symptoms progressed during pregnancy in part because of increasing exposure to narcotic medications. We also review the options for migraine evaluation and treatment, and provide an overview of the risks associated with the different treatment options.

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