Associations Between Maternal and Offspring Migraine Examined

mother child
Researchers found a strong association between mothers who have migraines and their children.
Researchers found a strong association between mothers who have migraines and their children.

Parental migraine is associated with offspring migraine, to a greater extent in maternal-offspring migraine, according to a study published in Cephalalgia.

Researchers conducted this cross-sectional, population-based cohort study to investigate the familial transmission of migraine, separating mothers and fathers, in the general population. Inhabitants of NordTrøndelag county, Norway, were invited to participate, resulting in a final study sample of mothers (n=8015), fathers (n=5716), and offspring (n=8970). A sensitivity analysis using a larger sample of individuals of all ages was conducted to examine how using age-truncated samples affected the analyses. Headache diagnoses were obtained through structured interviews in the younger cohort and with questionnaires based on a modified version of the International Classification of Headache Disorders II in the adult cohort. Covariates, such as parental level of education; anxiety and depression; exposure to smoking in the home; and parental physical activity were also collected in the same surveying techniques.

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Maternal and paternal migraine were both significantly associated with migraines in their offspring; there was a stronger association between mothers and offspring compared with fathers and offspring (P =.004). In secondary analyses, both low- and high-frequent parental migraine were associated with offspring migraine. There was a significant association found between maternal headache and offspring headache when examining non-migrainous headache. The association remained significant between mothers and daughters only when stratifying on offspring sex.

This study is limited by its cross-sectional design, which renders causal inference difficult. Only active headache was assessed, which may further present a limitation.

Researchers concluded that parental and offspring migraine could be due to genetic and/or environmental factors, however, twin and family migraine studies have not demonstrated any effect of shared environment on migraine.


Børte S, Zwart JA, Stensland SO, Hagen, K, Winsvold BS. Parental migraine in relation to migraine in offspring: family linkage analyses from the HUNT Study [published online February 2, 2019]. Cephalalgia. doi: 10.1177/0333102419828989.