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Moms' migraine might double chances of infant colic

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Colic in babies linked to mothers with migraines

A new study shows twice the likelihood that a baby will develop colic if mom is prone to migraine headaches. An investigation from University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) shows the chances of having a colicky baby are double when compared to mothers studied who don’t have migraine headaches.

The finding is important because the researchers say colic may be an early symptom of migraine. Eliminating light, noise and stimulation might be beneficial for a baby crying from colic. There are also indications for curbing the incidence of shaken baby syndrome that can lead to brain damage, disability and death. Excessive crying is a known trigger for shaken baby syndrome.

Amy Gelfand, MD, a child neurologist with the Headache Center at UCSF who will present the findings at the American Academy of Neurology’s 64th Annual Meeting in New Orleans in April, said in a press release, “If we can understand what is making the babies cry, we may be able to protect them from this very dangerous outcome.”

Colic is associated with a baby crying for more than 3 hours a day, three days a week, for more than three weeks, according to MayoClinic.com. Crying episodes generally happen at the same time every day and occur in an otherwise healthy baby. Curled legs clenched fists and high pitched intense crying are symptoms of colic.

Nobody knows what causes colic. Many babies are likely to have a bowel movement or pass gas at the end of an episode. The condition has not been found to be related to gastrointestinal problems.However years of research has failed to find a definite cause.

In the current study, mothers who have migraines were found to be 2 ½ times more likely to have a baby with colic.

The researchers surveyed mothers who brought their babies to the pediatrician for their 2-month check-up, which is the time colic typically occurs.

Twenty-nine percent of infants had colic, whose mothers had migraine headaches, compared to just 11% of babies whose mothers were without migraines.

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Gelfand and her colleagues believe colic may be an early sign of a group of conditions known as childhood periodic syndromes, highlighted in a 1997 report published in the “Italian Journal of Neurological Sciences”.

The researchers plan to continue their studies by following colicky babies into childhood to see if they develop other childhood periodic syndromes, one of which is abdominal migraine.

The researchers think, just like migraine sufferers, that babies with colic may be sensitive to environmental stimuli after birth. For colicky babies the world may be a little too bright, too noisy, cold and too active, compared to the quiet, warm secure environment of the womb.

The study may provide insight into how to help babies suffering from colic, which also protect infants from shaken baby syndrome. If there is a definite link found between mothers who have migraines and colicky babies, treatment may be a simple matter of reducing light and noise and other sources of excessive stimuli.


“Babies' Colic Linked to Mothers' Migraines”
February 20, 2012

“Childhood periodic syndromes”
Cuvellier JC, Lépine A.

The Italian Journal of Neurological Science
“Periodic syndrome and migraine in children and adolescents”
G. Lanzi, et al.

Image credit: Morguefile

Mayo Clinic