Recent study links migraines during pregnancy to maternal and fetal complications

In May of 2019, the Department of Clinical Epidemiology at Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark completed a register-based study on the effects of migraine headaches in pregnant women and their babies (1, 2).

The researchers used Danish health registry data (collected between 2005 and 2012) to find 22,841 pregnant women who had migraines (2). They made such a determination based on the women being in contact with a hospital regarding their migraines or receiving at least two prescriptions for migraine medication. They then compared this group of migraine-suffering women with an age- and conception year-matched group of 228,324 pregnant women who did not suffer from migraines.

The researchers used adjusted prevalence ratios (aPRs) for pregnancy and birth outcomes and adjusted risk ratios (aRRs) for neonatal and postnatal outcomes (2). These adjustments were made for age and preconception medical and reproductive histories.

Maternal findings

The study found that women who experienced migraines during pregnancy were (2): 

  • 15-25% more likely to have a cesarean delivery than those without migraines
  • 39-61% more  likely to experience pregnancy-related hypertension disorders than those without migraines
  • 6-23% more likely to have a low birth weight baby than those without migraines
  • 13-30% more likely to have a preterm delivery than those without migraines
  • 5-15% more likely to experience miscarriage than those without migraines

Fetal findings

The study found that newborns whose mother experienced migraines during pregnancy were (2):     

  • 3-45% more likely to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) than newborns born to mothers without migraines
  • 6-18% more likely to experience hospitalization than newborns born to mothers without migraines
  • 2-42% more likely to experience respiratory distress syndrome than newborns born to mothers without migraines
  • 3-57% more likely to experience febrile seizures than newborns born to mothers without migraines
  • 24-45% more likely to be given prescriptions than newborns born to mothers without migraines

What does this mean for prenatal care in women with migraines?

The study revealed that women who experience migraines during pregnancy are at a higher risk of many pregnancy and neonatal complications. The question of how migraines should be treated, prevented, and monitored arises as a result. 

It should be noted that, though the study was not designed to analyze the effects of migraine medications, the risk of complications was found to be lower for pregnant women who took migraine medications compared to pregnant women who had migraines but did not take medication. Further studies are necessary to determine the benefits and risks of specific migraine medications.

Related Reading

Sources

  1. Migraine increases the risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth. (2019, June 26). Retrieved July 3, 2019, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190626125111.htm2.
  2. Skajaa, N., Szépligeti, S. K., Xue, F., Sørensen, H. T., Ehrenstein, V., Eisele, O., & Adelborg, K. (2019, May 08). Pregnancy, Birth, Neonatal, and Postnatal Neurological Outcomes After Pregnancy With Migraine – Skajaa – 2019 – Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain – Wiley Online Library. Retrieved July 3, 2019, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/head.13536

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