Depressing Study Links Migraine to Colic, But It's Not All Bad News

Which is worse: periodically experiencing painful, debilitating migraines—or parenting a baby who cries excessively for seemingly no reason whatsoever? How's this for unfair: it seems that one condition may be directly linked to the other.

In a recent study that was apparently custom-designed to depress the hell out of thousands of migraine sufferers, researchers found that mothers with a headache history are more than twice as likely to have babies with colic.

The only good news? It's possible this new revelation may actually offer some ideas for treating a colicky baby.


In the study, UCSF researchers analyzed information from 154 new mothers at their babies' two-month checkup (that's about the age when colic tends to peak). Overall, 29 percent of babies whose mothers had migraine had colic, compared to 11 percent of those babies whose mothers were migraine free.

Although the study was relatively small, the findings suggest that a mom with migraines may have a two-and-a-half times greater risk that her baby will have colic (defined as excessive crying in an otherwise healthy infant). Man, talk about a bummer. Also, a particularly wicked cycle of headache = crying baby = headache.

One of the theories related to this study is that colic may be an early sign that a child may be likely to experience migraine (a highly genetic disorder) later in life. Although no mom likes to think about her child being doomed to a headachy future, there's an upside to this otherwise unpleasant revelation: it may offer some clues on how to treat colic.

Study author Amy Gelfand, M.D., who is a child neurologist with the Headache Center at the University of California, San Francisco, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, suggests that new parents try treating colic like one would treat a migraine:

Turning down loud music, going to a quiet room and decreasing stimulation might help.

Keeping a "colic diary" in order to track flareups is also a good idea, along with any other migraine treatments that a pediatrician approves. Soothing baths, cool compresses, and dietary changes for breastfeeding moms are all potential options.

It's not the most uplifting study I've come across—so, you have horrible headaches? WELL GUESS WHAT—but more information is always a good thing. The research may also prove helpful in more accurately identifying older children with migraine by asking about a history of infant colic, and that's happy news for worried parents who can do more with a solid diagnosis than a bunch of symptoms and questions.

Hopefully this study will help researchers understand colic and migraine, and works towards much-anticipated cure.

Did you have a colicky baby? If so, do you also have migraines?

Image via Flickr/nateandmiranda

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