What do you do when you have a migraine while pregnant?
Sadly, I suffer from migraines. Fortunately, they rarely make me significantly nauseous, nor do I get the “aura.” They are, however, quite painful and since they are usually located behind one of my eyes, that eye waters. My simple, but effective technique for dealing with them over the years has been to take 800 mg ibuprofen at the first sign of a headache, put a cold pack on my forehead, lay down in a dark, quiet place and attempt to take a nap. I am sure not every little twinge in my head would have developed into a migraine (some probably would have been your run-of-the mill headaches), but with migraines it is important to head them off as quickly as possible because it is much more difficult to get rid of them after they fully develop. I understand this is actually true for pain management in general, and though I’ve never heard why, my guess is that those particular receptors take a long time to turn over making them fairly inaccessible to pain medication once the pain starts (though someone should correct me if I’m wrong) (look, science content!).
As you may know, you cannot take ibuprofen (or aspirin, or aleve) when you are pregnant. So, when I felt a headache developing the other night I was pretty concerned about how I was going to deal with it since, in the past, Tylenol has not touched my migraines. Nevertheless, I took two Tylenol, put an cold pack on my head, and went to bed. And, as I feared, I woke up in the middle of the night with a migraine. Took more Tylenol, put another cold pack on my head, and went back to bed. And woke up this morning with the migraine still going strong. So, I took more Tylenol and this time added my secret weapon: caffeine.
If you look at the back of a bottle of extra-strength Excedrin, you will notice one of the active ingredients is caffeine. Caffeine is actually good for relieving migraines (if it is not what causes your migraines in the first place, it can do both). You may have heard that pregnant women are supposed to stay away from caffeine, but if you do the research, it turns out that you can have up to 200 mg caffeine a day which is about the amount in one 12 oz cup of coffee or several 8 oz cups of black tea (depending on how strong you brew your tea).* Of course, green and white tea have even less caffeine so you can have a whole teapot of one of those, if you want.
At any rate, I took more Tylenol, had a cup of strongly brewed tea (I hate coffee), laid back down, et voila! Migraine gone. For some people, I know, it would not be so easy. These unfortunate people likely take something quite a bit stronger than ibuprofen for their migraines and fortunately, some of those can be used during pregnancy. However, I think drinking some caffeine could be something to try if you are stuck with only Tylenol to soothe your pain.
*This is a useful number to have handy in case someone (your mother-in-law, for instance) gets on your case about having a caffeinated beverage. Not that I would know anything about that.