When we first started trying for a baby back in 2015, we felt the same anxieties as most people planning on becoming parents. Could we afford it? What if the baby never sleeps? Would we be good parents? If I’m honest, one of the things I worried about most was what would happen to my migraines?
Six years and two kids later, I feel a bit guilty about how much I worried about this, but at the time it was a real fear for me. As most female migraine sufferers know, hormones have a huge effect on the frequency and severity of your migraines. The thought of nine months of migraines, which couldn’t be treated with my usual medication (more on that later), was scaring me.
The fact is, my migraines were different in both pregnancies and affected me in different ways.
With all of my pregnancies (including the ones that ended sooner than we would have liked), one of the first indicators I was pregnant, even before a positive pregnancy test, was some of the worst migraines of my life. And because we were trying, I couldn’t treat them with Sumatriptan as I usually would.
With both Alex and Ava, I had between 4-6 of these debilitating attacks in the first trimester and had a headache of some type pretty much every day in between. Because we weren’t telling people we were pregnant yet, it was difficult to explain constantly feeling ill.
That’s basically where the similarities end.
Second and third trimesters
In my pregnancy with Alex, my migraines disappeared completely after my first trimester and didn’t come back until a few months after I’d given birth. I was still experiencing a quite a lot of headaches but these were manageable, and to be honest, I had so many other issues going on with my SPD that it was great to have one less thing to worry about.
With Ava, my migraines continued and made me miserable. Every few days I’d get a migraine and have to go to bed. I’m not sure exactly why. Maybe the hormone levels I was experiencing were different or maybe it’s because my life circumstances were so different. After all, this time around I had just become self employed, was running around after toddler and my Dad had been diagnosed with lung cancer. So life was pretty stressful. If I’m honest, my diet wasn’t great either. With Alex I craved hard boiled eggs and this time around it was KitKat Chunkies, and it would be an understatement to say I indulged. I was eating plenty of good foods but topping off every meal and healthy snack with chocolate.
Conflicting medical advice
During my pregnancy with Alex, I was under midwife care only. I was told point blank that I couldn’t take my migraine medication (I was on Rizatriptan at the time) and that I could take paracetamol. Which as we all know, does absolutely nothing. As my migraines disappeared after the first trimester, I didn’t think too much about it.
But I was suffering during my last pregnancy. Migraines were making me miserable. This time I was under consultant care due to my previous history of miscarriage, so I told my consultant about my headaches and he said that I would be able to take my migraine medication if I needed it after I was out of the first trimester. I was so happy that I might be getting some relief finally. So I called up my GP surgery and asked them to prescribe me my Sumatriptan. But my GP refused, so I had a phone appointment to discuss my headaches and was told again that I couldn’t take it.
At my next appointment with the consultant, I brought up the fact that my GP wouldn’t give me a prescription. While I was there he checked both with an online database and called a colleague in neurology, both of them said that it was fine to take Sumatriptan if pregnant. But my consultant wouldn’t prescribe it for me, saying it had to be my GP.
In the end, I just ended up suffering through the rest of the pregnancy. To say I was angry was an understatement, especially when I developed SPD again and they just started throwing codeine prescriptions at me.
If you were reading this hoping to find out if pregnancy would affect your migraines, it probably isn’t all that helpful. After all, everyone is unique and their migraines react in different ways to changes in your life and body. What I will say though is be sure to flag up any migraines to your midwife or consultant. Headaches can be a sign of other issues in pregnancy, so you’ll want to have these ruled out before you just put everything down to your migraines. If you’re debilitated with them, press your doctor for the most up to date advice on what you can and can’t use to treat your migraines. And the best advice I can give, is look after yourself.
Headaches In Pregnancy – Tommy’s
Pregnancy & Migraine – The Migraine Trust