Headaches are one of the most common discomforts experienced during pregnancy and may occur at any time during your pregnancy, but they tend to be most common during the first and third trimesters.
What Causes Headaches During Pregnancy?
During the first trimester, your body experiences a surge of hormones and an increase in blood volume. These two changes can cause more frequent headaches. These headaches may be further aggravated by stress, poor posture or changes in your vision.
Other causes of headaches during pregnancy may involve one or more of the following:
- Lack of sleep
- Low blood sugar
- Caffeine withdrawal
- Stress (due to many changes)
Women who have regular migraine headaches may discover that they experience fewer migraines during pregnancy; however, some women may encounter the same number or even more migraine headaches. If you are pregnant, it is important to talk to your health care provider about any medications that you may be taking for headaches.
Headaches during the third trimester tend to be related more often to poor posture and tension from carrying extra weight. Headaches during the third trimester may also be caused by a condition called preeclampsia, which is high blood pressure during pregnancy.
How Do I Treat Headaches During Pregnancy?
During pregnancy, you want to try and relieve your headache by natural means if possible, however your health care provider may recommend acetaminophen.
You may want to try to relieve your headache with one or more of the following natural remedies:
- If you have a sinus headache, apply a warm compress around your eyes and nose
- If you have a tension headache, apply a cold compress or ice pack at the base of your neck
- Maintain your blood sugar by eating smaller, more frequent meals – this may also help prevent future headaches
- Get a massage – massaging your shoulders and neck is an effective way to relieve pain
- Rest in a dark room and practice deep breathing
- Take a warm shower or bath
- Practice good posture (especially during the third trimester)
- Get plenty of rest and relaxation
- Eat well-balanced meals
You may also reduce the likelihood of migraine headaches by avoiding common triggers of migraine headaches:
- Aged cheese
- Bread with fresh yeast
- Preserved meats
- Sour cream
When Should I Contact My Doctor?
- Before taking any medications
- If you do not experience any relief from the remedies above
- Your headaches get worse or more persistent
- You experience headaches that are different than normal
- Your headaches are accompanied by blurry vision, sudden weight gain, pain in the upper right abdomen, and swelling in the hands and face
Want to Know More?
- 7 Common Discomforts of Pregnancy
- Treating Muscle Cramps Naturally During Pregnancy
- Pregnancy and Leg Cramps
Compiled using information from the following sources:
1. Williams Obstetrics Twenty-Second Ed. Cunningham, F. Gary, et al, Ch. 55.
2. National Headache Foundation.
3. Mayo Clinic Guide To A Healthy Pregnancy Harms, Roger W., M.D., et al, Part 3.