Migraine and pregnancy

Neurol Clin. 1997 Feb;15(1):209-31. doi: 10.1016/s0733-8619(05)70305-4.


Migraine and tension-type headache are primary headache disorders that occur during pregnancy. Migraine sometimes occurs for the first time with pregnancy. Most migraineurs improve while pregnant; however, migraine often recurs postpartum. Some disorders that produce headache, such as stroke, cerebral venous thrombosis, eclampsia, and SAH, occur more frequently during pregnancy. Diagnostic testing serves to exclude organic causes of headache, to confirm the diagnosis, and to establish a baseline before treatment. If neurodiagnostic testing is indicated, the study that provides the most information with the least fetal risk is the study of choice. Although drugs are used commonly during pregnancy, there is insufficient knowledge about their effects on the growing fetus. Most drugs are not teratogenic. Adverse effects, such as spontaneous abortion, development defects, and various postnatal effects, depend on the dose and route of administration and the timing of the exposure relative to the period of fetal development. Although medication use should be limited, it is not absolutely contraindicated in pregnancy. In migraine, the risk of status migrainosus may be greater than the potential risk of the medication use to treat the pregnant patient. Nonpharmacologic treatment is the ideal solution; however, analgesics, such as acetaminophen and narcotics, can be used on a limited basis. Preventive therapy is a last resort.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Headache / diagnosis
  • Headache / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Migraine Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Migraine Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Cardiovascular / diagnosis*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Cardiovascular / drug therapy*