Headaches are not uncommon during pregnancy. The worst are migraines. Migraine headaches are extremely painful and often debilitating vascular headaches. Cornell University notes that 15 to 20 percent of pregnant women experience migraines during pregnancy. The difficult part in dealing with migraines during pregnancy is that some medications used to treat migraines, both prescription and over-the-counter, are contraindicated during pregnancy. Some research suggests that magnesium supplementation may decrease the frequency and duration of migraines during pregnancy. There is no correlation between magnesium and regular headaches, however.
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What is Magnesium?
Magnesium is a mineral that plays a vital role in every bodily organ. Many foods are rich in magnesium, including whole wheat flour, oatmeal, bananas, blackstrap molasses, spinach and almonds. Normally, adult women need 280 to 300 mg of magnesium per day. During pregnancy, these requirements increase to 320 mg per day. After pregnancy, breastfeeding women need 335 to 340 mg per day.
The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University notes that magnesium levels are often lower in individuals who suffer with migraines than those who do not. Pregnant women who do not consume enough magnesium may experience more migraines than pregnant women who receive the recommended amount. Magnesium is thought to help constricted blood vessels within the brain to relax and prevent the buildup of lactic acid that contributes to tension and worsens migraine pain.
Supplementing with magnesium may help reduce the incidence of migraines during pregnancy. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, 600 mg per day has been shown to reduce migraine frequency. However, lower doses of 485 mg per day were not shown to decrease migraine occurrence. Your prenatal vitamin should contain magnesium, but your doctor can advise you regarding additional magnesium supplements that may be needed to help treat your migraines.
If you did not have migraines or other headaches during pregnancy but experience them while you are expecting, consult your doctor right away. It can be difficult to distinguish the difference between a severe headache, a migraine and a headache caused by pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia. Do not add any supplements, including vitamins, to your regimen during pregnancy without first contacting your midwife or doctor. Although it is a mineral and it is difficult to overdose, it is possible to take too much magnesium, which should be avoided.