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Maintenance of Effects in the Nonmedical Treatment of Headaches During Pregnancy


Dr. Lisa Scharff, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pain Evaluation and Treatment Institute, 4601 Beum Boulevard, Pittsburgh, PA 15213.


In a previous study, 30 pregnant women suffering from headaches were treated with physical therapy, relaxation training, and biofeedback. Eighty percent of these women experienced significant relief of headaches following treatment. Although this study demonstrated the effectiveness of nonmedical treatment during pregnancy, little is known about the influence of changing hormones during pregnancy on fluctuations in headache. One purpose of this study was to present a follow-up of the women who were included in the previous study to determine whether the results from the nonmedical treatment were maintained up to a year after giving birth. In addition, this study examined the influence of headache diagnosis and breastfeeding on changes in headache activity and maintenance of treatment effects. The results indicate that the reductions in headache activity were maintained at follow-up in the majority of the women treated, with 67.5% of the sample maintaining a significant decrease in headache up to 1 year after giving birth. Neither IHS diagnosis nor breastfeeding was related to maintenance of headache improvement. We conclude that the beneficial effects of nonpharmacological treatment of headaches during pregnancy demonstrated in a previous study are maintained up to 1 year following delivery. Headache diagnosis and breastfeeding were not related to treatment outcome, a finding that contradicts the reports of many retrospective studies.