Does Migraine Medication Cause Miscarriages?

Researcher Katernia Nezvalova-Henriksen from Norway's University of Oslo has discovered that women taking triptans, a strong class of medication used to treat migraines, have no greater risk for miscarriage than do women who forego the drugs. This study included 70,000 pregnant women and a study this large makes the results persuasive.

Popular Medications

Some of the popular medications based on triptans include Illument, Cinie, Imigran, and Imitrex. These medications serve to treat both cluster headaches and migraines. Besides ruling out these medications as a risk factor for miscarriage, the study turned up no association between the use of triptans and birth defects. The study authors commented, "While it is important to exert caution when using any medications during pregnancy, our study indicates that pregnant women can either start or continue taking triptans without any major risk of miscarriage, premature delivery, or other bad outcomes."

This study has important implications since many women who are attempting to conceive or are already pregnant may fear using these medications, thinking that they might hurt the developing fetus or cause an abortion. While the study proves this is not the case, untreated migraines do carry a significant risk for preeclampsia as well as heart attack.

The researchers do state that it is important that more studies be carried out to reinforce these findings. For this reason, women who are pregnant, or trying to become pregnant, should discuss their migraine medication use with their physicians. One concern that turned up during the course of the study was a slight increase in a woman's risk for excessive bleeding during labor as well as an inability of the uterus to contract as it should after delivery in those women who used triptans during their pregnancies. 

They're Afraid

It is believed that three out of every ten women develop migraines during their fertile years, but women fear taking migraine medication because of their concerns about its safety. Triptans are some of the most powerful medications used to treat migraine.

Nezvalova-Henriksen and her research team found that 2% or 1,535 women took Imitrex, Maxalt, Zomig, or Relpax during pregnancy. Less than 1% or 373 women used the drugs prior to conception, but stopped during their pregnancies.

The rate of birth defects was found to be 5% in women who took triptans during pregnancy and in those without migraines. In those women who used triptans prior to pregnancy, the rate was just a bit higher, at 6%.