Pregnancy can be a wonderful time for expectant mothers, but unfortunately, headaches during pregnancy can be a very persistent problem. It’s not unusual to get tension headaches when you’re pregnant, especially in the first trimester.
Tension headaches – the most common kind of headache – can feel like a squeezing pain or a steady dull ache on both sides of the head or the back of the neck. If you’ve always been susceptible to tension headaches, pregnancy can make the problem worse. Read on to learn how to get rid of headaches during pregnancy.
Drink a lot of water.
- During pregnancy you need to increase the amount of food and liquids you take to provide not only proper nourishment for yourself, but also for the baby. Drinking more water also alleviates headaches by reducing the swelling of the blood vessels in your head which occur when you are not properly hydrated or are experiencing high stress levels.
Get a lot of rest.
- During pregnancy especially in the first trimester, your body has to deal with some rapid changes. These changes also include rapid increases in hormone levels which can cause your body to feel more stressed and you to feel more exhausted. Getting more rest as your body prepares for the baby will help to reduce the frequency of pregnancy headaches you experience.
Don’t go hungry or thirsty.
To prevent low blood sugar (a common headache trigger), eat smaller, more frequent meals. If you’re on the go, keep some snacks (crackers, fruit, yogurt) within reach. Avoid straight sugar, like candy, which can cause your blood sugar to spike and crash.
Reduce your caffeine consumption gradually.
- Quitting caffeine suddenly can cause anyone, especially a woman who is pregnant to experience headaches. Although caffeine is not good for a pregnant woman, if you were a caffeinated beverage drinker before you found out you are pregnant; gradually wean yourself off of caffeine products.
Get some exercise. Some evidence shows that regular exercise can reduce the frequency and severity of migraines and reduce the stress that can cause tension headaches. If you’re prone to migraines, get started slowly – a sudden burst of activity could trigger one.
- Don’t exercise once a migraine has started because it will aggravate the headache.
- Doing exercises to help you maintain good posture may be especially helpful with headaches during the third trimester.
- Due to the sensitive state of a woman’s body and mental state during a pregnancy, stress is more likely to induce headaches. In stressful situations, breathe and try to relax. Remove yourself from the situation (if possible).
Take a Shower.
- Pregnant women have a higher body temperature. So it is important to stay cool and calm. Cooling the body off when you are having a headache can bring immediate relief.
- If you are not able to take a shower, try using a compress and applying it to your face and forehead. This is extremely useful if you are at work or in public where there is not a shower facility available.
Visit a prenatal massage therapist.
- Massages can ease headaches by relaxing the muscles and easing the tension out the body. They also increase blood circulation to the body. Massages are a great way to relax the body and relieve the stress from all of the pregnancy related changes you are going through.
Can a headache be a sign of something more serious?
Most headaches during pregnancy are unpleasant but harmless, but a headache can be a sign of a more serious problem. If you’re having a migraine or other severe headache for the first time ever, you’ll need a full medical evaluation to be sure nothing else is going on.
In the second or third trimester, a headache could be a sign of preeclampsia, a serious pregnancy-induced condition marked by high blood pressure. Other symptoms can include protein in the urine, vision changes, and liver and kidney abnormalities.
Call your provider right away if:
- You’re in your second or third trimester and have a bad headache or a headache for the first time, which may or may not be accompanied by visual changes, sharp upper abdominal pain or nausea, sudden weight gain, or swelling in your hands or face. You’ll need to have your blood pressure and urine checked right away to be sure you don’t have preeclampsia.
- Your headache is accompanied by a fever and a stiff neck.
- You have a sudden “explosive” headache, violent pain that awakens you from sleep, a headache that doesn’t go away, or one that feels unlike any you’ve ever experienced.
- You have a headache after falling and hitting your head (or any other kind of head injury).
- Your headache is getting worse and you experience any other problems such as blurry vision or other visual disturbances, slurred speech, drowsiness, numbness, or a change in normal sensation or alertness.
- You have nasal congestion, as well as pain and pressure underneath your eyes or other facial or even dental pain. You might have a sinus infection that will need to be treated with antibiotics.
Even if you’ve had headaches before, talk to your healthcare provider about them so you can decide what kind of evaluation and treatment might be best for you during your pregnancy. If you’re a migraine sufferer, you won’t be able to take most of the medications you’ve used before – ask your caregiver before taking any medication other than acetaminophen.
If you feel like your eyes are straining and notice that you get headaches after reading or looking at a computer screen, have your vision checked by an eye doctor.
- If you need more immediate relief from headaches during pregnancy, consult with your ob/gyn about taking medication. It is strongly recommended that you get the approval of your doctor first before using any medications.