Open Access Research article

Risk of placental abruption in relation to migraines and headaches

Sixto E Sanchez1, Michelle A Williams23*, Percy N Pacora4, Cande V Ananth5, Chungfang Qiu3, Sheena K Aurora6 and Tanya K Sorensen3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Hospital Nacional dos de Mayo, & Universidad San Martin de Porres, Lima, Peru

2 Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, WA, USA

3 Center for Perinatal Studies, Swedish Medical Center, Seattle, WA, USA

4 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Hospital Nacional Docente Madre Niño San Bartolomè; & Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Lima, Peru

5 Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics; Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, NJ, USA

6 Swedish Headache Center, Seattle WA, USA

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BMC Women's Health 2010, 10:30  doi:10.1186/1472-6874-10-30

Published: 26 October 2010



Migraine, a common chronic-intermittent disorder of idiopathic origin characterized by severe debilitating headaches and autonomic nervous system dysfunction, and placental abruption, the premature separation of the placenta, share many common pathophysiological characteristics. Moreover, endothelial dysfunction, platelet activation, hypercoagulation, and inflammation are common to both disorders. We assessed risk of placental abruption in relation to maternal history of migraine before and during pregnancy in Peruvian women.


Cases were 375 women with pregnancies complicated by placental abruption, and controls were 368 women without an abruption. During in-person interviews conducted following delivery, women were asked if they had physician-diagnosed migraine, and they were asked questions that allowed headaches and migraine to be classified according to criteria established by the International Headache Society. Logistic regression procedures were used to calculate odds ratios (aOR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) adjusted for confounders.


Overall, a lifetime history of any headaches or migraine was associated with an increased odds of placental abruption (aOR = 1.60; 95% CI 1.16-2.20). A lifetime history of migraine was associated with a 2.14-fold increased odds of placental abruption (aOR = 2.14; 95% CI 1.22-3.75). The odds of placental abruption was 2.11 (95% CI 1.00-4.45) for migraineurs without aura; and 1.59 (95% 0.70-3.62) for migraineurs with aura. A lifetime history of tension-type headache was also increased with placental abruption (aOR = 1.61; 95% CI 1.01-2.57).


This study adds placental abruption to a growing list of pregnancy complications associated with maternal headache/migraine disorders. Nevertheless, prospective cohort studies are needed to more rigorously evaluate the extent to which migraines and/or its treatments are associated with the occurrence of placental abruption.