Q&A With Kayla McCain: Managing Chronic Migraine With Pregnancy

For any woman that experiences chronic migraine, it’s a real fear that pregnancy will increase their symptoms. I was one of those women. 

For me, I began experiencing symptoms of a chronic condition called Vestibular Migraine in October of 2016. Unlike stereotypical migraine, I don’t experience headaches. In fact, when I’m having a migraine attack my strongest symptoms are dizziness, light sensitivity, and tinnitus.The dizziness and light sensitivity were so debilitating that I didn’t leave my house for the first few months because my body was physically rejecting the lights and sounds from grocery stores, restaurants, my office building, etc. 

This all changed when I stumbled upon Migraine Shields. The everyday lens was the first pair of glasses that I put on where I could function similarly to how I did prior to my diagnosis. Crazily enough, I have perfect vision, but wearing migraine glasses is imperative for me when I’m having a migraine attack. 

All of that said, I finally found a way to manage my migraine with a combination of prescribed drugs from my neurologist and other treatments that I had no idea what was in store for me during pregnancy. That reason alone is why I wanted to share my journey and answer questions to those who may be feeling fearful of getting pregnant or are pregnant and need a few tools on how to manage their symptoms. 

Q: Did you notice any symptoms that seem to be similar to both migraine and pregnancy?

A: Yes! The first month I was pregnant I had no idea because my pregnancy symptoms mocked migraine. I was feeling fatigued, nauseated, dizzy, and had a horrible headache. I think I laid on the couch for about a week because I thought I was having a horrible episode when, little did I know, I was just experiencing the fun symptoms that go hand-in-hand with your first trimester. 

Q: Have you always struggled with migraine and they’ve just intensified during pregnancy? Or are they brand new with the pregnancy?

A: I had migraine episodes here and there in my 20s, but it became chronic in the fall of 2016. I know that some women can experience migraine attacks for the first time during their pregnancy and others who have been chronic, it might completely disappear. You never know how your body will respond. (The surge in hormones seems to affect everyone differently.)

Q: Have you experienced new symptoms?

Unfortunately, yes. Headaches have never been one of my symptoms, but in pregnancy they have been. It’s also become worse in my third trimester. I am not sure if that’s from the pregnancy insomnia women experience or the increase in hormones, but my migraine attacks have increased for sure. I also am now enduring pulsatile tinnitus which is more of a thumping than a ringing. My doctor says it’s because of the extra blood flow pregnant women experience. 

Q: What medications have you been using?

A: In terms of migraine, a lot of your medications will get slashed in half by your OB. A lot of what is prescribed by your neurologist prior to pregnancy are not good medications to take for the development of your baby. That said, I can still take my prescribed Timolol eye drops (beta-blocker) and Tylenol for pain. You’re really limited on medications that are helpful for migraine, which is why I have found my BluTech lenses to be so helpful. They can relieve my symptoms without causing any harm to my baby. 

Q: What other ways have you managed your pregnancy to feel good?

A: Self-care. Anything that makes me feel like myself. In the beginning, I loved going on walks to get some fresh air, prenatal massages, drinking a lot of water and eating healthy (when I can), and taking the time to even meditate. Your body undergoes a lot of changes, and it’s important to take care of yourself. 

Q: How are you preparing for your delivery?

A: It’s important to have let your doctor and team know that you have chronic migraine. That way they can have all of your medications on file during your hospital stay. For me, my biggest fear is the bright lights that are in every hospital. I’m having a planned cesarean, and I am terrified of the lights in the OR setting me off. Luckily, I have a sense of relief because I am able to wear my Migraine Shields and hopefully that offsets having an attack while giving birth. 

Q: How have you prepared for postpartum?

A: I think you can try and prepare, but until you’re in it, you won’t know what to expect. I know that sleep is a very important factor for causing migraine attacks, and new moms don’t get a lot of that. I keep hearing that it’s important to sleep when the baby sleeps and that you need to make sure to take care of yourself during this time. Once I grasp how to manage all of this with migraine, I will be sure to do a follow-up. 

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