Five Ways to Prepare for Pregnancy with Chronic Migraine
Pregnancy isn’t something we’re always able to plan for in advance. However, if you’re considering getting pregnant and/or you are trying to conceive, this is an ideal time to consider how your migraines may affect your pregnancy.
Increased migraine frequency and severity during pregnancy
Many women find that their migraines improve during pregnancy. Others, like me, however, experience a significant increase in both severity and frequency. If I had it to do over, I’d wish I’d followed these five tips to make the gestation period a little easier.
Find an OBGYN who's comfortable with migraine
#1. Find an obstetrician who is comfortable treating patients with migraine.
When I was pregnant, my neurologist refused to continue treatment, opting instead to turn over my treatment to my ob-gyn. This appears to be common practice among headache doctors. You may want to talk to your normal migraine doctor prior to pregnancy to learn what changes to expect. (This is also a good time to talk about any changes you should be making in medication management in preparation for pregnancy.) Then, speak to any potential ob-gyns about your attacks and your treatment needs before settling on a specific provider.
Sleep as much as possible
#2. Catch up on your sleep now, if possible.
Pregnancy is exhausting. From first-trimester morning sickness and fatigue to the constant nighttime bathroom trips and inability to get comfortable that plague the third-trimester, you’ll be continually reminded that growing another person takes a tremendous amount of energy. The only time you’ll be more exhausted is in the first year after the baby is born. Since we all know the problems sleep deprivation can wreak on our brains, one of the best things you can do to help yourself prepare for pregnancy is to ensure you aren’t entering it with a sleep deficit.
Find activities to reduce stress
#3. Find and begin participating in a relaxing, low-impact activity that you truly enjoy.
Stress reduction often goes a long way toward reducing the frequency and/or severity of our migraine attacks by minimizing how susceptible we are to our triggers. Whatever your interests, if you have chronic migraine you’re probably already participating in some kind of stress relief plan. Often times, however, what works as a stress reliever pre-pregnancy doesn’t work or is inappropriate during pregnancy. For this reason, you may want to try something new. Prenatal yoga, walking meditation, art classes, and/or swimming are often good choices. (Note: Whatever activity you choose to participate in, make sure to discuss it with your ob-gyn prior to or at the start of your pregnancy to ensure it’s safe for you and your baby.)
Don't try to do everything
#4. Delegate as many tasks as you can.
What everyday tasks are you comfortable turning over to other people? Which ones can you afford to turn over to someone else? Reserving your energy for the most important things, like supporting your baby and maintaining your own health, is essential to a happy, healthy pregnancy. Tasks to consider delegating:
- car pools (ask a neighbor or another parent),
- deep cleaning (hire a housecleaner to come once a month),
- cooking (ask your partner to do it or stock up on healthy prepared foods),
- volunteer projects (ask a colleague to take over temporarily).
If money and/or help is scarce, consider lining up help just for the times you’ll need it most: the third trimester and the first six to 12 weeks after the baby is born.
Work on time management
#5. Use your time wisely.
When I was pregnant, I started making lists of items we would need and purchasing them right at the start of my second trimester. Whenever I felt well enough, I cooked a meal and stuck it in the freezer for the days to come when no one would feel energized enough to cook. I also coordinated work projects so they either ended prior to my 36-week mark or began after my baby would be about three months old. Consider how you might spread your tasks out so that you can do less on any given day, while still accomplishing everything you need to get done before and after the baby comes.
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?