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Reproductive & Child Health News

Pregnancy Doesn't Cure Migraines
February 7, 2000

Past studies have shown that an increase in the level of estrogen can reduce the number of migraine headaches. It would seem to make sense then, that the number of chronic headaches would decrease when a woman is pregnant because her estrogen level is high.

Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be the case, according to a study done at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pennsylvania. The results of the research appeared in the October 1999 issue of the journal Headache.

The researchers evaluated 49 pregnant women who suffered with chronic headaches. Eighteen of the women had regular migraine headaches, 16 experienced chronic tension-type headaches, and 15 suffered with both. Overall, the women suffered about 30 percent less headaches during the weeks of their second and third trimesters, but researchers dismissed this as being significant. That's because this brief respite occurred for only about 40 percent of the women. Those who did have the greatest improvement were the women who experienced migraines. Those with tension-type headaches didn't fare as well.

Researchers looked at other factors that they thought might influence the frequency and severity of headaches during pregnancy, including changes in the severity of headaches the women experienced during earlier pregnancies, the number of pregnancies the women had had, and whether the women breast-fed their babies. None of these factors influenced the number and severity of headaches suffered during the study.

The researchers concluded that only a small percentage of women cease having severe headaches while they are pregnant. The investigators added that pregnant women should be offered a variety of treatments for their headaches. Although taking drugs is not recommended, studies have shown that four out of five women get results when they use non-drug therapies, such as biofeedback, relaxation, and physical therapy.

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