A history of migraine headaches could make a woman more prone to pregnancy complications, such as issues with blood pressure or preterm birth, according to a new study.
"We now know migraines may be an underrecognized risk factor for adverse pregnancy outcomes," said study co-author Dr. Natalie Bello, director of hypertension research in the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles.
"The reason for these associations remains unclear, but we suspect they might be related to pathways of inflammation, blood vessel dysfunction or increased risk for blood clots," Bello said in a Cedars-Sinai news release.
For the study, the researchers used information from a U.S. National Institutes of Health-funded database. They followed nearly 10,000 volunteers through pregnancy, labor and delivery. Adverse outcomes were defined as gestational hypertension (high blood pressure), preeclampsia or eclampsia, preterm birth, delivery of a small-for-gestational-age infant or stillbirth.
Preeclampsia is a serious high blood pressure condition that develops during pregnancy or just after delivery. Gestational hypertension is when a woman's blood pressure is newly elevated during pregnancy. These are two of the most common blood pressure-related disorders during pregnancy. Both can increase a woman's risk of heart disease, heart failure and stroke later in life.
Women in the study reported any personal history of migraine headaches, including pre-pregnancy, in their first trimester.
The researchers compared characteristics between participants who did and did not report a migraine history, including health issues such as obesity, recent smoking, chronic high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, pre-gestational diabetes and autoimmune disorders.
About 19% of the 9,450 participants reported a diagnosis of migraine at their first visit. Those women were also more likely to report they had a recent smoking history, autoimmune disorders and chronic kidney disease.
The investigators found that the study participants who reported a migraine history also had higher chances of developing high blood pressure disorders during pregnancy, as well as both medically indicated and spontaneous preterm birth.
Delving deeper, the team found a larger effect in participants who reported recent use of medication for migraine.
The findings were recently published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on migraine.
SOURCE: Cedars-Sinai, news release, Sept. 7, 2022