Daisy Swaffer explores the difficulties of trying to conceive when living with chronic migraine.
Having a baby is one of the most fundamental things in life, and yet, I feel that so many people take it for granted. For me, however, falling pregnant seems to be an insurmountable problem.
I have always wanted to be a mother. In fact there has never been any point in my life where I haven’t been 100% sure that I wanted to be one. In an ideal world, I wanted to have two kids after I got married and before I turned 35.
I got married in 2012 shortly before I turned 32, and that’s when the journey of trying to conceive began for me. I specifically bought a house in a good area for families and with enough room to raise kids in. I’m now 39 and I’m still childless and not pregnant, and I can firmly place the blame for that with my chronic migraine.
Exploring ‘safe’ treatment options
It was only six months after getting married when my migraine nurse put me onto the contraceptive pill. This was specifically to try and combat the menstrual migraines, and I felt like this was okay to do for a while as I still had time.
I was still relatively young, and I needed to prioritise managing my migraine symptoms better before I could realistically introduce something as disruptive as a baby into my life.
I talked to my migraine nurse a lot about my desire and intention to get pregnant. It came up during every appointment I had with her, and it informed all of our decisions about my treatment.
Every time I tried a new treatment, I was always strongly recommended not to get pregnant while taking it. The implications of one particular medication were so severe that if I fell pregnant, I would have had to have a termination.
Eventually, we managed to get me to the state where I was only on one potentially problem-causing medication. This was prescribed to reduce blood pressure and is usually given to women while they are pregnant (typically in lower doses than I was taking). Finally I had the go-ahead to try for a baby, with a plan to reduce and come off the medication as swiftly as possible once I became pregnant.
By this point, I was already well past the age of 35 – an age by which I had always wanted to have two kids already.
Migraine is not conducive to conception
I don’t know if this is the case for everyone with chronic migraine, but my migraine attacks come parcelled together with chronic daily headaches. Until I stopped working, I could very easily count the number of pain-free days I had in one year, on one hand. The longest I went without a pain-free day was over 14-months.
You know that old stereotype of: “Not tonight dear, I have a headache”? Well, that stereotype made me feel wretched about my situation for so many years. When you’re living with daily migraine or bad headaches, it is an absolute killer on your sex life – especially when any movement exacerbates the pain.
This is even more detrimental as my menstrual migraine means I am basically guaranteed to have a migraine at menstruation and, more importantly, at ovulation. Combine that with a very irregular cycle and the fact there is only roughly a 12-24 hour period after ovulation during which the egg can be fertilised and it makes the whole process very unlikely to happen for me.