There’s no sugarcoating this: Being a new mom is tough! In addition to experiencing a roller coaster of hormonal fluctuations and bodily changes, you’re also tasked with traversing the stress and intricacies that come with welcoming your newborn into the world.
Of course, it’s all worth it. But for migraine sufferers, there’s an additional layer of complexities that come with motherhood.
To help new and expectant parents-to-be navigate the many changes—both physical and mental—that come with the territory, we talked to three moms about what to expect during the first year of parenting.
Here’s what no one tells migraine sufferers about their first year of parenting.
1. Expect that your migraine frequency might change
When Erin, 28, was pregnant with her firstborn, her migraine attacks magically stopped. It was amazing while it lasted—but once her son was born, they came back in full force. With her second and third pregnancies, her condition seemed to get worse: During her third pregnancy, she had terrible migraine headaches before, during, and post-labor that each lasted three solid days.
Rising estrogen levels may help reduce migraine frequency during pregnancy, but the relief is often short-lived. Most women who experience a reduction of migraine during pregnancy will experience an attack within the weeks following delivery.
2. Anticipate going off your medication
Just like giving up coffee and alcohol, you may need to go cold turkey on your migraine medication during pregnancy.
Under the advice of her OB-GYN, 40-year-old mother of three Stephanie, stopped taking migraine medication during her pregnancies. Although she was better prepared for her worsening symptoms in her second and third pregnancies, she remembers her migraine attacks without medication being especially challenging.
“There were many times I was treated with IV fluids, [nausea medication] Zofran, and Benadryl to make me comfortable when a migraine was out of control in the first trimester,” she explains.
To avoid any unpleasant surprises, try to work out a migraine plan that takes note of any medications you’ll have to stop before you start trying to get pregnant. That way, you’ll have time to slowly decrease the amount of medication you’re taking in advance rather than stopping all at once, which can be a real shock to the system.
3. Expect your plans to change
For 38-year-old mother of three Tesalia, experiencing attacks after pregnancy meant spending entire days in bed waiting for her symptoms to improve. Although she hoped to exclusively breastfeed her children for up to a year after birth, her episodes pushed her to be a more flexible mom.
“In my first pregnancy, I wanted to exclusively breast-feed my child, so I would pump a ton of milk that I could use whenever I had a migraine and wanted to take medication,” she explains. “With my second and third kids, I used formula. Despite the fact that there are so many opinions about formulas out there, it was easier to have something solid to depend on during an episode, rather than wait 12 hours to pump after taking a tablet.”
4. Your migraine frequency won’t be the only thing that changes
Unfortunately, migraine frequency won’t be the only change that affects you physically during pregnancy. Stephanie experienced acne and dry skin, and her feet grew a half size larger. Childbirth also left her with a case of diastasis recti, or a separation of the abdominal muscles that left her with a “poochy” belly.
What’s causing your skin symptoms? Let's take a deep dive and learn more.
Pregnancy is the number one cause of diastasis recti, but it’s not always something moms-to-be get educated about, Tesalia says. Although she experienced it after her first child, she didn’t fully understand its implications until she discovered an Every Mother brochure after getting a massage one day. Before her second and third pregnancies, she made sure to incorporate core training from the Every Mother app into her daily regime to prevent diastasis recti, and encouraged expectant moms to do the same.
“After my experience, I want to share my knowledge with everyone—you have to do these core exercises and strengthen your pelvic floor before and after pregnancy,” Tesla says. “If people are more aware that diastasis recti can happen, then they can prevent it.”
5. It’s ok to ask for help
Normalize asking for help—whether you’re a migraine sufferer or not. Being a new mother is chaotic, emotional, and often sleep-depriving. Taking breaks to rest won’t just give you the relief you need, but it will likely make you a better caretaker in the long run. Stephanie recommends having a list of friends, relatives, and grandparents on speed dial who you can call in a pinch if you need a break to sleep off a migraine attack.
“If someone offers help, accept it,” Stephanie says. “Sleep when you can. Meal prep before the baby is born. Listen to your body, and know those towels can be folded tomorrow.”
6. It pays to be prepared
It’s ok to be fearful about how migraine may impact you as a parent. But you should know that it’s possible to prepare yourself for when the going gets tough. Erin recommends having a preventive and rescue medication on hand for when episodes arrive unexpectedly.
Practicing self care—including staying hydrated and getting enough sleep—will also go a long way.
“Take care of yourself,” Erin says. “You are important! Otherwise, enjoy every moment… even the ones with migraines, because one day you will miss them. Migraine headaches and all.”
This article was written in partnership with Every Mother.
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.
Photo by Guillaume de Germain on Unsplash