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Could Migraines Raise Odds for Complications in Pregnancy?
  • Posted February 28, 2022

Could Migraines Raise Odds for Complications in Pregnancy?

Women with migraine may have a higher risk of preeclampsia and other pregnancy complications, a new study suggests.

The researchers looked at more than 30,000 pregnancies in about 19,000 women over a 20-year period.

"Roughly 20% of women of childbearing age experience migraine, but the impact of migraine on pregnancy outcomes has not been well understood," said study author Alexandra Purdue-Smithe. She is an associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

"Our large prospective study found links between migraine and pregnancy complications that could help inform doctors and women with migraine of potential risks they should be aware of," Purdue-Smithe said in a news release from the American Academy of Neurology.

For the study, her team assessed rates of complications such as preterm delivery, gestational diabetes and high blood pressure, low birth weight and preeclampsia, a complication marked by high blood pressure and signs of damage to other organ systems. It threatens the life of both mother and baby.

After adjusting for age, obesity and other factors that could affect the risk of pregnancy complications, the researchers found that women with migraine had a 17% higher risk of preterm delivery, a 28% higher risk of gestational high blood pressure and a 40% higher risk of preeclampsia than women without migraine.

Among migraine sufferers, 10% had preterm delivery, 7% had gestational high blood pressure and 6% had preeclampsia. Rates were 8%, 5% and 3%, respectively, among women without migraine, the investigators found.

The risk of preeclampsia was much higher among women who had migraine with aura, in which visual disturbances (such as flashing lights) occur before the headache, according to the report. Preeclampsia risk was 51% higher among women who had migraine with aura and 29% higher among those who had migraine without aura than among women without migraine.

However, the associations found in the study do not prove a cause-and-effect relationship. In addition, migraine was not associated with gestational diabetes or low birth weight, the study authors said.

The researchers are scheduled to present the study findings at an American Academy of Neurology meeting, held April 2 to 7 in Seattle and online April 24 to 26. Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

"While the risks of these complications are still quite low overall, women with a history of migraine should be aware of and consult with their doctor on potential pregnancy risks," Purdue-Smithe said.

"More research is needed to determine exactly why migraine may be associated with higher risks of complications," she added. "In the meantime, women with migraine may benefit from closer monitoring during pregnancy so that complications like preeclampsia can be identified and managed as soon as possible."

More information

For more about migraine and pregnancy, visit the American Migraine Foundation.

SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, news release, Feb. 24, 2022

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