Are colic and migraines related?

No fun at all...

Now this is interesting!

In a study of 154 new mothers with colicky babies, University of California San Francisco researchers discovered that mothers with a history of migraine headaches were two and a half times more likely to have a colicky baby than those who had no migraine history.

It’s too early to tell, of course, but the UCSF team speculates that colic may turn out to be an early symptom of migraines in some babies, similar to other childhood “periodic pain syndromes” like abdominal migraines.

Abdominal migraines are weird things. They’re characterized by sudden, sometimes severe abdominal pain that can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting and headache. But sometimes it’s just abdominal pain by itself, and it can be disabling. Since there’s no test to diagnose it, kids with abdominal migraines typically go through a whole battery of labs before their pediatricians decide that’s what it must be. Other serious conditions have to be ruled out first.

Now compare that with a classic description of colic, courtesy of Dr. Wilfrid Sheldon, from his 1936 edition of Diseases of Infancy and Childhood:

“A typical attack of intestinal colic begins suddenly, the infant screaming and drawing up his thighs on his abdomen, which becomes tense and rigid. Vomiting may ensue. Each attack lasts two or three minutes and passes gradually… Nervous infants, or those born of nervous parents, are at risk of convulsing.”

Sounds pretty similar, eh?

I can’t tell you how many colicky babies I’ve seen over the years (none of whom have convulsed, despite Dr. Sheldon’s concerns), and how many distraught parents I’ve helped get through what can seem like the longest few weeks in their lives. Historically, parents have used everything from charms and herbs to “soothers” containing morphine and marijuana–Dr. Sheldon’s favorite remedy included belladonna and opium. Many, many babies died in the old days from side effects of colic treatments.

Next up for the UCSF team is to follow the babies in the study as they grow and see how many end up with migraines. If their findings pan out, this could lead to new understanding, and new treatment, for an age-old scourge.


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