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Migraine Headaches and Preeclampsia: An Epidemiologic Review


  • Kathryn L. Adeney MPH,

  • Michelle A. Williams ScD

  • From the Center for Perinatal Studies, Swedish Medical Center, Seattle, WA (Ms. Adeney and Dr. Williams); Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Seattle, WA (Ms. Adeney and Dr. Williams).

Address all correspondence to Ms. Kathryn L. Adeney, Center for Perinatal Studies, Room 444-N, Swedish Medical Center, 747 Broadway, Seattle, WA 98122.


Objective.—To summarize and evaluate available empirical research on the relationship between migraines and gestational hypertension or preeclampsia and to provide direction for future research in this area.

Background.—Migraines affect a substantial proportion of reproductive-aged women and have been associated with cardiovascular risk factors and ischemic disease in this population. Preeclampsia is a vascular disorder of pregnancy, also linked to adverse cardiovascular outcomes.

Methods.—Publications were identified by a MEDLINE search using keywords “migraine,”“preeclampsia,” and “gestational hypertension,” and by examination of the reference lists of identified articles.

Results.—The literature review yielded 10 studies addressing the association between migraines and preeclampsia or gestational hypertension. Of the 10 studies, 8 reported a positive association between the syndromes.

Conclusions.—Available evidence suggests that migraines and preeclampsia may reflect an underlying predisposition toward ischemic injury. More rigorous epidemiologic research is warranted, after consideration of several important methodologic issues.