The Association Between Parental Migraine and Infant Colic: A Cross-Sectional, Web-Based, U.S. Survey Study

Headache. 2019 Jul;59(7):988-1001. doi: 10.1111/head.13575. Epub 2019 Jun 20.


Background: Infant colic, or excessive crying in an otherwise healthy infant, is common, although the cause(s) are not known. This study aimed to determine whether parental migraine is associated with infant colic.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional online survey study of biological parents of 4-8 week olds in the United States during February and March 2017 and October 2017-April 2018. Parents self-reported information about their and their infant's health using validated instruments wherever possible. Parents were recruited using social media advertisements and completed the survey online. Migraine was identified with a validated screener using modified International Classification of Headache Disorders 3rd edition criteria. Parental depression and anxiety were screened with the Patient Health Questionnaire-2 (PHQ-2) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder Scale-2 (GAD-2). Parental seasonal allergies and asthma were assessed by self-report. Infant colic was determined based on parental response to the question, "Has your baby cried for at least 3 hours on at least 3 days in the last week?"

Results: A total of 1,715 surveys were completed over 2 recruitment periods; 1,419 formed the analysis set. Eight hundred twenty-seven were completed by biological mothers and 592 by biological fathers. Mean (SD) maternal age: 28.9 (5.1) years; 33.5% had migraine/probable migraine. Maternal migraine was associated with increased odds of infant colic: OR 1.7 (1.3-2.4). Among mothers with migraine, headache frequency ≥15 days/month was associated with higher risk of infant colic (OR 2.5 (1.2-5.3)); and anxiety was borderline associated (OR 1.7 (1.0-2.9)). Mean (SD) paternal age was 31.6 (4.5) years; 20.8% had migraine/probable migraine. Paternal migraine was not associated with infant colic: OR 1.0 (0.7-1.5). Fathers with depression (OR 2.4 (1.4-4.3)) or anxiety (OR 1.7 (1.1-2.7)) were more likely to have a baby with colic but having a girl infant was protective: (OR 0.7 (0.5-0.97)).

Conclusions: Mothers with migraine are more likely to have a baby with colic, while fathers with migraine are not. Further research is needed to determine the mechanisms underlying these findings. In the meantime, clinicians may wish to counsel parents with a maternal history of migraine about the increased possibility of having a colicky infant and provide resources and education about infant crying.

Keywords: anxiety; depression; infant colic; migraine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / epidemiology*
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Child of Impaired Parents / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Crying
  • Fathers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Migraine Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult