#Weaning and #Migraine – Treatment Update

My little man will be 19 months old on the 12th, and with his increasing independence comes a number of changes, both for him and for me.

I’ve been practicing baby-led feeding and baby-led weaning, which means we’ve had fewer struggles than we might otherwise have had along our journey but it also means the weaning process is taking significantly longer than it otherwise might. That being said, my son took the lead on night weaning about four months ago, and I am happy to report that we are now officially done with the 2 a.m. (and 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.) feedings. In fact, we’re down to just two nursing sessions a day: one before nap and one before bed. Neither lasts longer than 15 minutes, and I’m hoping to drop both soon. While this is really good news for me (I can’t wait to have my body to myself again), it is also not so good news.

Hormones change and fluctuate a lot during pregnancy and breastfeeding. They also change when we begin to wean, and again when we finally drop that final nursing session. For some women, this isn’t a super big deal. I’m not one of those women.

As I shared on this blog, my migraines were terrible during the first half or more of my pregnancy. They eased up a little during the third trimester and were largely absent during those first few postpartum months. Then, they kicked in again, and as we’ve progressed through the postpartum period and into the toddler years, they’ve gotten worse. This is due in part to the hot and ever-changing Texas weather and in part to weaning.

Weaning related migraines are nothing new. If you search the internet, you’ll find a large number of women discussing how much worse their migraines got when they stopped breastfeeding. Somehow, though, it was something I wasn’t entirely prepared to experience.

Unfortunately my expectations had little to no effect on reality.

The last eight weeks have brought a migraine more days than not. While I have a lot of non-prescription tools for coping with migraine and a supportive family, it’s become necessary to go back on medication. Thankfully, Kellymom.com, a wonderful resource for nursing mothers and their doctors (my neurologist even references this site), offers a pretty in-depth look at almost all of the common migraine and pain medications. Taking both the website’s information into account and the age of my son (babies older than 3 months usually aren’t as affected by medication in mothers’ milk as much as younger babies), my neurologist and I have crafted a new plan. For those who wonder:

  • I’ve started amitriptyline as a preventative. As of now, I’m only on 10 mg once a day, but I’m working myself up to 30 mg. We’ll reevaluate my progress when I go back for a follow-up at the end of the month. I’m still taking 400mg of Magnesium as a preventative as well.
  • I have prescriptions for a tablet version of Prodin for use as an abortive. I also have a few samples of a Zomig nasal spray, though I haven’t used it yet. (Triptans generally don’t work for me, and I figured I would wait to try this until I’m completely done weaning, just because it makes me more comfortable. Despite the fact that I’d heard somewhere that triptans were no-nos when breastfeeding, Kellymom.com actually says Zomig is “moderately safe.”)
  • I also have Fioricet and Promethazine tablets and a nasal spray version of Toradol for use as rescues.

I haven’t used most of these medications yet, as I try to avoid medications as much as possible. I have taken two of the Fioricet tablets, but so far I’ve experienced little relief. I’m hoping the amitriptyline will bring help. If it doesn’t, I believe we’re going to try a calcium channel blocker, which is one of the only preventatives I haven’t tried yet. If that doesn’t work, we’ll wait until my son has decided to completely give up nursing and then try a few other things. I trust that eventually either time or a medication will help.

March #Migraine Blog Round Up

March was a slightly busier month than February (at least here at The Migraine Chronicles), but I have to admit – more happened than I had the chance to write about. Hopefully, April will see that begin to change. In the meantime, here are some great posts you may have missed:

My Posts

Other Favorites

That’s it for this month. Happy reading!

Did I miss something you found particularly helpful? Share it here.

Watching for Signs of Migraine in Our Kids

My 11-year-old daughter frequently complains of stomachache. She hasn’t eaten too much. She doesn’t have a stomach bug. Yet, she complains, again and again, that her tummy hurts.

Suffering from chronic migraines as I do, I know too well how frequently pain can arrive and torment us – even when there’s not a “typical” reason. Yet, as her mother, I am unsure how to react.

My daughter, you see, is notorious for trying to get out of work.

Whether it’s a chore she doesn’t feel like doing or a page of homework that appears at first glance too overwhelming, she’s quick to cry defeat and (quite literally) hide under the table or in her closet. (Yes, I know this isn’t age appropriate or “normal.” No, there isn’t anything to do but wait for her to get her embarrassment and frustration under control.) In short, her intense emotions get to her and she gives up easily – much, much too easily. Though our year of homeschooling has gone a long way toward increasing her confidence and decreasing the instances of such behavior, it still occurs.

So, as a fellow pain sufferer, I want to hold her hand, comfort her, and give her whatever she needs to feel better. As her mother, however, I’m conflicted. I do not want to deny her her reality, but I do not want to let her use it as an excuse. And yet, I know how many of us with invisible illness – myself included – work tirelessly against stigma and the idea that we are “faking” our symptoms so we have an excuse to be lazy. I do not want to make my daughter feel like that.

Often, I tell her that I understand her tummy hurts and that I’m sorry. Then, I say that as soon as she gets finished with whatever it is she needs to do, I will make her soup and get her tucked into bed. Sometimes she takes me up on this. About half the time she decides she is well enough to go out and play after all.

What would you do? I’m sure her stomach does hurt – either from stress and anxiety or abdominal migraine (which can’t be ruled out) – but I don’t know how to respond.

Returning Fertility, Returning #Migraines

My son is almost 10 months old, and though I am still nursing him about every two hours, my monthly cycles have finally returned. For many women, this would simply mean returning fertility. For me, it means both this and the return of a particular kind of migraine: menstrual migraine.

The vast majority of my migraine attacks are not triggered by my menstrual cycle nor are they affected by hormones (other than cortisol). Some of my attacks are, however, and this was especially true this past week. For almost six straight days, a low-grade migraine kept me and my cramps company from the time I woke up until the time I finally nodded off to sleep.

Thankfully, my menstrual migraines are never as intense as my regular migraines, but their long stay can make them difficult to take. And, because I am still nursing, my methods for dealing with such a long migraine attack are limited. This time, I settled in with a heating pad on my abdomen, an ice pack on my head, and a bottle of ibuprofen to my left. It wasn’t the best treatment I could have tried, but it was the only one I had at my disposal.

I’m hoping my body and brain were simply unfamiliar with the flood of hormones associated with my cycle, and that they forgot how to handle them. I’m hoping that next month will be a little easier to take, with less cramping and fewer days of migraine pain. I’m hoping that eventually my brain will remember how to handle the ebb and flow of my feminine hormones and let me off the hook entirely. We’ll see.

 

Finding Happiness with Migraines

Living with migraine disease isn’t only about dealing with pain, nausea, fatigue, and other physical symptoms. It’s also about handling the accompanying emotional and mental challenges.

In my new e-book, Finding Happiness with Migraines: A Do-It-Yourself Guide, I offer tips on how to create a daily life filled with joy, appreciation, and confidence – even in the midst of a migraine. Readers will learn:

  • Which yoga poses can help with a migraine attack;
  • Why you should throw away your daily migraine journal;
  • How do-it-yourself therapy can create positive change;
  • Techniques to connect with your body and intuition; and
  • How to fight the fear, isolation, and anger that so often accompany the disease.

I’m excited to finally have the opportunity to share the wisdom and insights I’ve gleaned from six years of chronic, often “intractable” migraine. I hope you find it worthwhile! The book is available on both Kindle and Nook, or as a PDF. Find out more here: http://www.absolutelovepublishing.com/Happiness_with_Migraines.html.

 

Overcoming Setbacks: Migraine Awareness Month #4

Living with migraines can be disheartening. Too often, the disease ruins our plans and makes us feel like we can’t accomplish our goals. On those days, it can be difficult to pick ourselves up out of the puddle of doubt we’ve landed in and forge ahead. But, it can be done.

If my experiences living with migraine disease have taught me anything, it’s this: I am stronger than I thought I was. And, so are you.

Living through the pain, nausea, vertigo, fatigue, uncertainty, and light and noise sensitivity of migraine isn’t easy. It takes bravery to make it through each day and an often unappreciated optimism to continue setting goals for ourselves even when we don’t always achieve them. These are characteristics we all share, and yet few of us routinely see ourselves as courageous, adventurous, and full of hope. But, we are. And, acknowledging that we are is one way we can overcome the setbacks migraine throws at us.

When I’m feeling particularly down or discouraged about my ability to make my life into what I want it to be, I remind myself of this: I’m still here; I’m still fighting. Migraine, despite everything, hasn’t beaten me. And, that is something to get excited about.

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June 2013, Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, is dedicated to Unmasking the Mystery of Chronic Headache Disorders. The 2013 Migraine and Headache Awareness Month Blog Challenge is a project of FightingHeadacheDisorders.com.

 

Migraine Superheros: Migraine Awareness Month #2

As is so often the case these days, I’m running a day behind.

I had planned to post a blog every day this month in honor of Migraine Awareness Month and the Migraine and Headache Awareness Month Blog Challenge. Unfortunately, June 1st turned into June 2nd without my having even logged onto the Internet, let alone posted a migraine blog. This time, however, I have a very good reason for missing my deadline: I was finishing my e-book Finding Happiness with Migraines, A Do It Yourself Guide, which will be released sometime next week!

I’ll be posting additional details about the book in the upcoming days. For now, I turn to the MHAM blog challenge of the day:

If I were to chose just one person to be my Migraine Superhero, it would have to be my husband. Though he doesn’t truly understand what a migraine feels like, he always understands when I need to take a break because of a bad one. On those occasions, he helps me get into bed, turns out the lights, instructs our ten-year-old to “let Mama rest,” and takes care of the baby. He cooks dinner, reads to the kids, and brings me whatever I need to get comfortable.

In our busy, busy household, where neither I nor my husband ever has a second of downtime, his actions are nothing short of miraculous.

He also never resents me for my illness nor shames me for feeling badly. He doesn’t try to make me feel guilty, and he always lets me know how much he loves me and appreciates me. I wish every migraineur a “superhero” as warm, loving, and kind as mine.

 

June 2013, Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, is dedicated to Unmasking the Mystery of Chronic Headache Disorders. The 2013 Migraine and Headache Awareness Month Blog Challenge is a project of FightingHeadacheDisorders.com.

Migraines and the Changing Seasons

March kicked my butt. Seriously.

Austin is infamous for its extreme weather changes and its year-round allergies. Time between seasons is the worst, and this March was particularly painful.

At 8 a.m. on a Monday, for example, it would be 34 degrees and overcast. By 5 p.m. the same day, it would be 84 and sunny. Tuesday would be the opposite. The morning would be hot and clear, but the evening would be cold and grey. Wednesday would be hot and overcast all day. Thursday would be sunny and cold. By Friday, it could be either almost snowing or 95 degrees.

Basically, it was a weather-trigger nightmare.

I spent four straight weeks with a level 4 or higher migraine. Most days, the pain reached a 7 by nighttime. There were a few particularly bad days when the pain was a constant 8 all day long. Thankfully, my husband (a private school teacher) was on vacation for half of the month and was able to help me with the baby. The days he wasn’t there – and there were many – were nearly unbearable.

One of the things being a new mom and a migraineur has taught me, however, is that what I used to consider unbearable is now something closer to unpleasant. I may wish to stay curled up in bed all day (and doing so would certainly curtail the migraine more effectively), but I don’t have that option. No matter how badly it hurts, I have to get out of bed. No matter how badly I feel, I have to smile at the baby. (After all, if I don’t, who will? And, the baby needs smiles!) While this helps ensure my son isn’t left to cry alone in his crib all day, it – like all true tradeoffs – has its downsides, the largest of which is my neglect of my husband.

On a bad day (and in March, they were all bad days), I simply don’t have any energy left over to take interest in or spend time with my husband. Caring for the baby, working, homeschooling my daughter, and trying to fight off the pain until he gets home is really all I can handle. The moment he gets in the door, all I want to do is curl up in bed, in the dark, and cry from the pain. This is not the way to sustain a marriage.

Thankfully, spring has finally sprung (well, almost; today is wet and cold, and yesterday was hot enough for my daughter to go swimming), and the endless migraines have ebbed. Here’s hoping they stay at bay long enough for me to get some quality time with my guy. 🙂

How is everyone else holding up? Have you noticed a change in your migraines (either pain or frequency) since the weather changed?

 

With the Dawn of the Third Trimester, Migraines Return

I entered my third trimester of pregnancy last Friday, and within days my migraines returned. Those of you who have been following this blog may remember that I spent my first trimester primarily in bed, watching TV shows on Netflix and trying to distract myself from the relentless pain. Then, about mid-way into my second trimester, the migraines eased up and my energy returned. Now, it seems my reprieve has come to an end.

Once again, I find myself suffering with a migraine almost every day. Thankfully, though, they’re not as painful or as symptomatic as my first trimester migraines. Unfortunately, with the lack of sleep, the extra weight, and the dehydration that so characterizes the third trimester, it’s unlikely that I can do much to reduce their frequency. So, with only 11 weeks left to go, I’m crossing my fingers that my relative good fortune continues.

How about the rest of you pregnant ladies? Where are you in your journey, and how are you feeling?

 

The Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge 2012: Quotation Inspiration

This is my first writing prompt for the WEGO Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge. The first post was technically due yesterday, but as some of my readers may have realized, I’ve been rather absent these last six to eight weeks. So, I’m jumping in with Prompt #2 as my Prompt #1. (And, as has been the case so often of late, using one of my very limited “get out of post free” cards for yesterday.)

Today’s prompt asked us to write about a quote that inspires us. Mine is from Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

This always feels exceptionally relevant to me. I have written before about feeling less than able to accomplish my goals and dreams because of my migraines. When I get to feeling down and thinking about all of the things I cannot do, it is easy to forget that there are so many things I can do – especially if I figure out how to adapt in order to accomplish more of what I want to accomplish.

When I first became very ill, back in 2008, I was worried I would have to quit my full-time, high-pressure position as a Controller for a group of health clinics. Most days, I could barely stand to get out of bed. How, I thought, was I supposed to work 8 to 10 hours a day at the office?

The answer: I adapted.

I switched offices so that I could be far away from everyone else, and I began shutting my office door, in order to keep out any noise. I brought in a small lamp for my desk, and turned off my overhead lights. I also spoke to my boss, informed her of my situation, and began taking work home with me, so that if I really couldn’t get out of bed the next day, I could work from home. Eventually, I began working two to three days from home, where I could lay down while I worked. It wasn’t easy, and it did have its drawbacks, but it was better than it could have been.

Over time, I realized that the high-pressure world of accounting and finance management wasn’t where I wanted to be. And, with my ever-increasing migraines, it wasn’t what was best for me either. I had always been a writer, and had even worked as a part-time freelancer for about five years, so finally I decided to make the break and go full-time. I knew I would have control over my hours, my working environment, and the projects I accepted. The pay would be less – especially at first – and would also be sporadic, but it would give me what I needed and seemed to have so little of – control over my life.

It has now been almost three-and-a-half years since I made the switch, and I couldn’t be happier with the situation. There are trade-offs, of course, (feeling isolated, for instance) but overall I’m very happy with my decision. Not only do I have more power over my health, I also am able to do what I love every single day. By adapting in the face of tough odds, I feel I actually improved the quality of my life, despite the toll the disease has taken.

For those of you out there who are struggling with migraines or any other chronic illness, I encourage you to review your own situation for places where you may be able to introduce some change to bring about an improved quality of life. Change is always hard, and a little scary, at first, but it really does work. I wish you all the best.