Before the headache: infant colic as an early life expression of migraine

Neurology. 2012 Sep 25;79(13):1392-6. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e31826c1b7b. Epub 2012 Sep 12.


Objective: Childhood periodic syndromes are thought to be early life expressions of the genetic tendency for migraine. The objective of this study was to determine whether maternal migraine is associated with an increased risk of infant colic, because this may indicate that colic is a childhood periodic syndrome.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional study performed in general pediatric clinics. To minimize recall bias, mothers were surveyed at their infants' 2-month-old well-child visit, the age when colic is most prevalent. Colic was ascertained via parental report using modified Wessel criteria. Migraine history was obtained by having a physician diagnosis or a positive screen on ID Migraine. The primary outcome measure was difference in colic prevalence in infants with and without a maternal history of migraine.

Results: Data from 154 infant-mother pairs were analyzed. Infants with a maternal history of migraine were 2.6 times as likely to have colic as infants without a maternal history of migraine (29% vs 11%, prevalence ratio 2.6 (95% confidence interval 1.2-5.5), p = 0.02). There was no difference in the accuracy with which migraineur mothers perceived their infants' colic status compared with that of nonmigraineur mothers. Data on paternal history of migraine were available for 93 infants. Infants with a paternal history of migraine may have a higher prevalence of colic (22% vs 10%), although the prevalence ratio 2.3 (0.6-9.4, p = 0.24) had wide confidence intervals.

Conclusions: Maternal migraine is associated with increased risk of infant colic. Because migraine has a strong genetic underpinning, this association suggests that colic may be an early life manifestation of migraine.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Colic / diagnosis*
  • Colic / etiology
  • Colic / genetics
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Fathers*
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Migraine Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Migraine Disorders / etiology
  • Migraine Disorders / genetics
  • Mothers*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors