Pregnancy comes with its fair share of health concerns.
Most women get headaches now and then, but getting one while pregnant is uncomfortable.
Also, managing headaches in the first trimester is challenging because many medications should be avoided.
But, there are many things you should be aware of regardless of whether your headache is caused by tension or is a full-blown migraine.
Any headache you get during, before, or after pregnancy should be mentioned to your doctor.
Keep a headache notebook to note how frequently you have headaches and how painful they are, making a note of any additional symptoms you experience.
What causes headaches in pregnancy?
Headaches during pregnancy can be caused by several factors, including:
Hormonal changes: The hormonal changes during pregnancy, specifically increased progesterone, can cause headaches.
Dehydration: Dehydration can cause headaches and be more common during pregnancy due to increased fluid needs.
Increased stress: Pregnancy can be stressful, and stress can cause headaches.
Changes in blood volume: As blood volume increases during pregnancy, headaches can occur.
Tension in the neck and shoulders: Carrying extra weight and the physical changes of pregnancy can lead to tension in the neck and shoulders, causing headaches.
Sinus pressure: Sinus pressure and congestion can also cause headaches during pregnancy.
Lack of sleep: Many women experience difficulty sleeping due to discomfort, frequent bathroom trips, and stress. Sleep deprivation can lead to headaches as a result of increased muscle tension and changes in neurotransmitter levels.
It’s important to note that some headaches during pregnancy may be a symptom of a more serious condition, so if you have frequent, severe, or unusual headaches, it’s important to speak with your doctor.
After 20 weeks of pregnancy, if you get recurrent headaches, this could indicate pre-eclampsia, a more dangerous pregnancy condition.
Pre-eclampsia during pregnancy…
Pre-eclampsia is excessive blood pressure that can harm your kidneys and, occasionally, other organs.
Simple painkillers like paracetamol might not be effective if you have a pre-eclampsia headache.
If you get headaches in the second half of your pregnancy or if they are severe, you must inform your doctor or midwife.
How to treat headaches during pregnancy?
Headaches are a common complaint during pregnancy, affecting as many as 80% of women.
Various factors, such as hormonal changes, increased stress, and dehydration, can cause them.
If pregnant, paracetamol is the first pain reliever you should use.
If you must take paracetamol during pregnancy, do it for the least amount of time feasible.
Your pharmacist, midwife, or GP can guide you on how much and for how long to take paracetamol.
If not recommended by your doctor, some painkillers, such as those with codeine and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, should be avoided during pregnancy.
To relieve headaches during pregnancy, it is recommended to:
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water
- Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and visualization
- Apply a cold compress to your forehead
- Avoid triggers like caffeine, lack of sleep, or eye strain
- Get regular exercise and stretch your muscles
- Consider prenatal massage or acupuncture
- Eat consistently with a balanced diet
- Consider biofeedback by learning to manage certain biological processes like heart rate, muscular tension, and blood pressure
- Reduce your stress level and rest in a cool, dark room with no noise
- Use essential oils such as peppermint, rosemary, and chamomile
However, suppose your headache is severe, persistent, or accompanied by other symptoms like blurred vision. In that case, it is important to talk to your doctor to rule out any serious underlying conditions.
When should you visit a physician?
If you experience any of the following pre-eclampsia symptoms, see a physician or midwife:
- A headache that is unresponsive to paracetamol
- Severe rib-related discomfort
- After using antacids, your heartburn persists
- Sudden swollen hands, feet, or face
- Blurry vision
Sometimes, headaches are a symptom of more serious medical issues.
If any of the following apply to you:
- An unexpectedly severe headache
- A change in your typical headache patterns
- Your first migraine
- A headache accompanied by fever, stiff neck, light sensitivity, tiredness, or weakness in your arm or leg
- A recent head injury
Pregnancy headaches are rather frequent and could occur due to the rapid changes you’re experiencing.
If you get headaches at any point throughout your pregnancy, let your doctor know.
If you have a personal or family history of migraines, high blood pressure, seizures, or diabetes, inform your doctor straight once.
Please follow your doctor’s instructions for all drugs and treatments exactly.
Carefully heed all dietary and exercise recommendations.
For all follow-up care and routine checkups, visit your doctor.
With the proper treatment, most causes of headaches during pregnancy are curable or avoidable.