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Friday I took the day off of work and we took the kids to the beach for the first time.  It was so great!  The kids loved the beach and we had lots of fun digging in the sand and playing in the waves.  But, sadly, the rest of the weekend was a wash because I ended up with a migraine.  This isn’t a very unusual occurrence with me except that I have never had one while pregnant before.  So far that is one thing that I could rely on.  I might be sick and exhausted, but I get a break from migraines.  This one came out of nowhere and really messed me up.  I am still having problems with morning sickness so that on top of a migraine had me bed ridden.  I am lucky to have a husband who is home  a lot these days.  I know he was exhausted from our day trip on Friday and we were hoping to have a low key day at home but between me stuck in bed and the kids still on overload, he had his hands full!

A little about migraines from the National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke:

“The pain of a migraine headache is often described as an intense pulsing or throbbing pain in one area of the head. It is often accompanied by extreme sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and vomiting. Migraine is three times more common in women than in men. Some individuals can predict the onset of a migraine because it is preceded by an “aura,” visual disturbances that appear as flashing lights, zigzag lines or a temporary loss of vision. People with migraine tend to have recurring attacks triggered by a number of different factors, including bright or flashing lights, lack of food or sleep, or exposure to light.  Migraine in women often relates to changes in hormones and hormonal levels. Anxiety, stress, or relaxation after stress can also be triggers. For many years, scientists believed that migraines were linked to the dilation and constriction of blood vessels in the head. Investigators now believe that migraine is caused by inherited abnormalities in genes that control the activities of certain cell populations in the brain.”

Yeah…They’re awesome (insert sarcastic tone).

I have suffered from migraines off and on my entire life but never realized that’s what they were until college, when it was a hot topic in the medical field.  I was being fed information from all over (magazines, TV, books) that this was probably what I was experiencing, but it wasn’t until I had my first complex migraine (that I recognized) that I took it all very seriously.

I was working out in the gym when I realized that my vision was strange.  I was seeing flashes of light and dark spots and it looked as if my right eye was seeing through water.  Then I felt light headed and uncoordinated.  I lost all vision in my right eye and decided that I should stop running (yeah, it took me that long).  I told my workout buddy I was going to sit the rest out and wait for her in the lounge area.  I thought that I had overdone it on the treadmill and needed to relax, so I grabbed a magazine to read while I waited for my friend.

I couldn’t read!  The letters looked strange and the words that I did recognize didn’t mean anything to me.  I began thinking I was having a stroke.  I didn’t want to worry my friend, but I was getting really scared.  We took a trip to the ER where I was loaded with fluids and sent home.  The nurse asked if I had ever been diagnosed with migraines and I told her I suspected that I did get them, but had never been diagnosed by a doctor.  That was where the conversation ended.

I was fine two days later, but found that I was getting these “episodes” more and more often.  At one point, I missed an entire week of school and work because of one.  I decided that I needed to find someone to diagnose me or point me in another direction.

I set up an appointment with a neurologist and kept a food journal to see if there were possible triggers.  As it turned out, I had an “addiction” to over-the-counter pain reliever; mostly Ibuprofen, which was my drug of choice.  I took it nearly everyday, sometimes two or three times.  I suffer from cluster headaches that lead to migraines.  For example, I have allergies that cause sinus headaches.  These progress and lead to other kinds of headaches (there are various kinds) and then they cause a migraine.  I also had been in  a car accident in high school that left me with whiplash that was never rehabbed.  Muscle tension in my damaged neck , due to stress, leads to a migraine.  The week prior to my period, I always feel like I am on the verge of a migraine and it usually happens.  This is due to hormonal fluctuation.  It felt like no matter what I did, I got a migraine.

Avoid bright and blinking lights, relax, do muscle stretches, be conscious of your menstrual cycle, take something as soon as you feel a headache coming on but don’t take too much because then your causing other problems….

I was given a prescription for a medication to alleviate my “everyday” headaches and a prescription to treat migraines when they occurred.  The hope was that I would get to the point where I would not have the little headaches that would build up to where a migraine resulted and I would have fewer migraines overall.  Later I was prescribed a prescription anti-inflammatory for the week before my period to help stop the migraine before it started.

Migraines are a lifestyle, I found out.

This diagnoses is now seven years old and it seems that things have changed a little with further research.  This blood constriction thing was a pillar of my belief in what caused the pain I was experiencing.  Now experts say that it may not be the issue at all?  One of my main treatments is to place an ice pack at the base of my neck to constrict the blood vessels and stop the gushing of blood into my brain causing the throbbing in my head.  I am also not on any prescription medication right now.  I had a wonderful reprieve from migraines during my other pregnancies and during my bodies readjustment afterwards.  I currently rely on ice packs, an over the counter migraine medication (which is awesome most of the time) and resting in a dark place.  I have also heard that peppermint essential oil is a miracle worker for stress management and therefore, migraine management.  I have tried it for smaller tension headaches and it works, I just didn’t have any on hand this time.  Right now, I am only able to take acetaminophen, which really dones’t help much.  I am relying completely on relaxation techniques and ice packs. 

A lot of my diagnoses still makes sense, but so does the new research stating that we inhereit gene abnormalities.  My grandmother suffered from migraines but called them “sick headaches” because there was no such thing as a migraine back then.  They mainly occured during her childbearing years and that seems to be a common theme in women that I have spoken with.  So that leads me to believe that hormones must play a part in this as well.

Something else that eludes me is how my migraines have changed over the years.  They used to almost always begin with an aura, which gave me a warning.  The dizziness and cognitive issues would let me know to do something quick.  Now they come out of nowhere unless I am exerting myself physically. Now it seems like I wake up with them.  No warning.   And, I know certainly, that the weather affects my migraines.  Almost every big storm system that comes through gives me a headache either just before or just after.  I assume that it is related to barometric pressure in some way.

Over the years I have found that so many women (and men) suffer from some form of migraine.  I am astonished that they went without a second thought for so many years.  There are resources out there now for anyone who thinks that they may be suffering from migraines, but it is very important to seek the help of a medical professional because doing so can increase your quality of life substantially!



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