Preeclampsia is a high blood pressure condition in pregnancy. It has come up here at Headache and Migraine News more than once for a couple of reasons. First, pre-eclampsia can cause a pulsating headache, as well as symptoms such as dizziness and nausea.
Although these symptoms may be similar to migraine attacks, migraine itself has also be connected to preeclampsia. Women with a history of migraine may be at increased risk for preeclampsia.
If you’re experiencing new headache symptoms late in pregnancy, it’s critical that you have a checkup as soon as possible. The headaches may be an indication of a number of conditions, some more dangerous than others.
Recently at the New York Headache blog, Dr. Alexander Mauskop pointed out another interesting connection between migraine and preeclampsia. There is a certain treatment that is similar in both – magnesium.
As the American Family Physician as pointed out, “Studies have shown the effectiveness of magnesium in eclampsia and preeclampsia, arrhythmia, severe asthma, and migraine” (see Magnesium: Top of the List for Migraine).
Magnesium is taken as a daily supplement by many people with migraine, but it’s also given in the emergency room to stop severe migraine in its tracks. It’s also given in cases of preeclampsia and eclampsia, to stop convulsions and allow for a more normal delivery of the baby.
So the question is – is it just that magnesium happens to be effective for both migraine and preeclampsia, or is this actually an indication of abnormally low levels of magnesium in some patients?
Dr. Mauskop looks at a recent study that searched for factors that may predispose women to preeclampsia. The study did not check for low magnesium levels. As he writes:
If preeclampsia responds so well to magnesium, it is possible that these women have chronic magnesium deficiency. Magnesium deficiency predisposes people not only to migraines, but also to heart attacks and strokes. The test that should have been done is red blood cell (RBC) magnesium since 98% of magnesium is inside the cells or in the bones. The most commonly used serum magnesium level measures the remaining 2% and is highly unreliable.
He goes on to recommend that women who have suffered from preeclampsia or eclampsia be tested, and that they generally try to lower their risk for vascular problems:
If you’ve suffered from preeclampsia or eclampsia, in addition to reducing other risk factors for vascular problems – control your blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol, stop smoking if you smoke, lose weight, and exercise, you may also want to ask your doctor to check your RBC magnesium level. If the level is low or at the bottom of normal range, take a magnesium supplement. A good starting dose is 400 mg of magnesium glycinate taken daily with food. If subsequent tests show no improvement, the dose can be increased to 400 mg twice a day and even higher.
Read more from Dr. Mauskop here: Preeclampsia can have lasting effects on the brain
It would be interesting to see a study of magnesium levels in women who have had preeclampsia, and to hear from you if you’ve suffered from both preeclampsia and migraine, and have found magnesium to be an effective preventative.