1. uggling motherhood and migraine is no easy task.
Moms are famous for–or maybe notorious for–putting other people’s needs first. Their children, their partners or spouses, and their jobs tend to get the lion’s share of their attention, while their own needs get relegated to the backburner. But it’s critical for any mother who suffers from chronic migraine to address her own needs so she can continue meeting those of her family. Balancing parenting and chronic migraine is not necessarily easy, but if you prioritize a few things, you can make it work.
1. Knowing your triggers can help you avoid migraine attacks.
The only way you have a fighting chance to avoid the factors that trigger your migraine attacks is by knowing what they are. If you’re not entirely certain, start keeping a headache journal and record as much as you can about your surroundings when you notice a headache brewing. It might be strong smells, getting dehydrated, drinking alcohol, or it could be an overload of stress. Or it might be changes in the weather, or a whole host of other possible factors. Once you know what your triggers are, you can start taking steps proactively to avoid them.
2. Your menstrual cycle may play a role.
Women are disproportionately affected by migraines when compared to men, and experts believe the menstrual cycle may play a role. In fact, many women find migraine attacks tend to come on around the same time as their periods. The idea is that fluctuating levels of hormones like progesterone and estrogen may trigger a migraine around that time. Talk to your doctor about your contraception method to find out if there may be a birth control that will help you stabilize your hormone levels and maybe ward off some of those migraine headaches.
3. Your family can help you out.
If your migraine attacks tend to put you out of commission for the duration, you’ll need to make sure your family can function without you while you’re resting and recovering. You can talk to them about your triggers, so they can help you avoid them, and you can let them know what you need from them while you’re coping with a migraine. If your kids are old enough, consider assigning specific tasks to them.
4. Quiet places can be a balm.
A migraine is brewing. You’ve taken your medication, and now you’re hoping for the best. What else can you do? If you’re on solo-parent duty, you may have to find a way to soldier on until there’s some relief, either in the form of another adult to help out or a lessening of your migraine pain. If bright light is also a trigger, you might want to avoid brightly lit, noisy spaces. Seek out a quiet place where you can parent without the noise. It might be a corner of the public library, or the playroom at your home.
5. You need to eat.
Skipping meals can actually trigger migraine headaches in some people. And no, we are not talking about scarfing up a few leftover chicken nuggets and a dozen crackers after your toddlers have had their fill. Try to make time to eat a healthy meal that will keep your energy levels up. You might also stock up on healthy snacks that are easy to stash in your purse, your car, your work bag, or even the diaper bags, just so you’re never caught without something nutritious to nosh on.
6. You have a variety of prevention options available to you.
If you have migraine headaches at least 15 days out of the month, your doctor may suggest trying a chronic migraine prevention medication. There are a number of approved treatments for migraine prevention. You might try injections of botulinum toxin (Botox), which can block your pain networks from activating in the brain. Or you might benefit from taking one of the four newer drugs that target the action of a protein that leads to migraines. They’re called CGRP inhibitors. Three are available for use by injection: erenumab (Aimovig), fremanezumab (Ajovy), and galcanezumab (Emgality). The fourth and newest one, eptinezumab-jjmr (Vyepti), must be administered intravenously. Compared with other treatments, they have relatively few side effects, and you don’t have to worry about remembering to take them on a daily basis, either.
7. You also have options for meds to treat migraine pain.
Luckily, moms with migraine do not have to just grin and bear it–or in this case, wince and bear it. You also have options for treating migraine pain as it occurs. For short-term relief or mild pain, you may be able to take an over-the-counter pain reliever, like aspirin or ibuprofen or a medicine that combines caffeine, aspirin and acetaminophen. For more severe pain or regular use, you may need something stronger. Commonly prescribed drugs include sumatriptan (Imitrex) and rizatriptan (Maxalt), which are both triptans and designed to block pain pathways in your brain, as well as others like lasmiditan (Reyvow) and ubrogepant (Ubrelvy). Talk to your doctor about which one may be appropriate for you.
8. Sleep really does matter.
If you advise parents of babies or young children to get more sleep, they’ll probably respond with a hollow laugh. Like them, you may be doing the best you can to get enough sleep to survive. Here’s the thing, though: sleep is even more crucial than you think. Lack of sleep or disrupted sleep can be a big migraine trigger for some people. Try to find ways to improve your situation if it’s a problem for you. Work on sticking to a regular sleep-wake schedule–or as regular as you can achieve. Ask your spouse for help. Don’t stay up late trying to get caught up on chores or social media, if you can head to bed and get a little more sleep.
9. It’s worth investing in other kinds of self-care.
Remember that stress is a common migraine trigger. Balancing parenting and chronic migraine can be stressful all on its own, and that doesn’t even include other stressors in your life. It’s not easy to reduce your stress levels, though. But if you can find a couple of ways that will help you relax, even just for a little while, it will pay off. That might include some simple breathing or biofeedback exercises, or it might be exercise. You may benefit from spending time listening to some quiet music or a guided meditation while you’re in the carpool line. Or it might be carving out time for a yoga class or some time to swim laps. Whatever kind of self-care works for you, go with that.