Study: Women With Migraines Show Higher Risk of Pregnancy Complications


Although the risks are still, individuals with a history of migraines should be aware of and consult with their physicians, investigators say.

Women with migraines may have a higher risk of pregnancy complications, such as gestational high blood pressure (HBP), preeclampsia, and preterm delivery, according to the results of a preliminary study released.

Investigators also found that women with migraines who have an aura, a sensation that comes before the headache in the form of visual disturbances, have a higher risk of preeclampsia than those with migraines without aura.

Preeclampsia involves HBP and other symptoms, such as protein in urine, during pregnancy that can threaten the life of the child and mother.

“Roughly 20% of women of childbearing age experience migraine, but the impact of migraine on pregnancy outcomes has not been well understood,” Alexandra Purdue-Smithe, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said in a statement. “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 during pregnancy.”.

In the study, investigators looked at more than 30,000 pregnancies in approximately 19,000 women over 20 years.

Of those, approximately 11% of women said that they were diagnosed with migraines before pregnancy.

After adjusting for age, obesity, and other behavioral and health factors, investigators found that women with migraines had approximately a 28% higher risk of gestational HBP, and a 40% higher risk of preeclampsia, and a 17% higher risk of preterm delivery.

Of the 3881 pregnancies among women with migraines, approximately 10% were delivered preterm compared with 8% of pregnancies among women without migraines, gestational HBP was approximately 7% compared with 5%, and preeclampsia was approximately 6% compared with 3%, respectively.

Additionally, when migraines were associated with an aura, women were 51% more likely to develop preeclampsia during pregnancy than women without migraines. Furthermore, women with migraines but without an aura were 29% more likely to develop preeclampsia compared with women without migraines.

“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. 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,” Purdue-Smithe said.

Investigators noted that a limitation of the study was that migraine history was reported prior to pregnancy but migraine aura data were not collected until after the study, which led to information that came after many of the pregnancies ended.

Another limitation of the study was that the frequency and other migraine features were not available.


Is migraine tied to complications in pregnancy? EurekAlert. News release. February 24, 2022. Accessed March 7, 2022.

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