Headaches During Pregnancy

5 min read

Headache is one of the most commonly found discomforts experienced by expecting mothers. They can be either a tension headache or a headache due to sinusitis or a migraine. A severe headache can also be an indication of some serious issues related to the pregnancy, which can affect the health of both mother and fetus. Therefore, do not take headaches during pregnancy lightly.
headache during pregnancy
Even though headaches can appear at any time in the course of pregnancy, they are more frequently found during the first and the third trimester. The occurrence of headaches is less during the second trimester as the outpouring of hormones is more or less stabilized during this period. Besides, the body begins to adapt to its physiological changes.

What Causes Headaches During The First Trimester Of Pregnancy?

The most common reasons for a headache during the first trimester of the pregnancy are the pregnancy hormones and increasing blood volume. Pregnancy hormones dilate the blood vessels. As the blood volume increases during pregnancy, more blood starts to pound through these relaxed blood vessels. When the pounding of blood happens in the veins in the head and neck, it can result in a headache. You may also experience a headache during pregnancy due to hunger or dehydration, fatigue, and tiredness, depression, sinusitis, allergies, or strained eyes.

What Induces A Headache During Later Stages Of Pregnancy?

As the pregnancy progresses to the third trimester, both the fluctuations in hormones and blood volume will hit their highest point. This results in aggravating the headache. Increased physical and mental stress and increased fatigue during the last trimester can also cause headaches during this phase of pregnancy.

Various Causes Of Headaches During Pregnancy

Other reasons for a headache during pregnancy involve one or different combinations of the following factors:

  1. Wrong postures: If the nerves in the back of the head are chafed, they can set off a headache. Sleeping with the head in an incorrect position, or sitting, walking, standing, lying down in wrong postures can put a strain on the neck and shoulders. This can give rise to headache during pregnancy
  2. Lack of sleep: Interrupted sleep or lack of sleep can always cause a headache that lasts for an hour or extend throughout a day (no matter if you are pregnant or not). Due to those leg cramps, anxiety, and other physical and physiological issues, pregnancy can bring forth sleep deprivation. This triggers a headache
  3. Changes in blood pressure: Blood pressure fluctuation during pregnancy can trigger a headache
  4. Low blood sugar: Change in appetite and eating habits can result in low blood sugar during pregnancy. The brain will not receive enough glucose as the blood sugar level becomes considerably low due to delayed or irregular meals. This results in a headache. Keep yourself full of energy with these healthy Indian snacks
  5. Withdrawal symptoms: If you discontinue the usual intake of caffeine or nicotine (tea, coffee, and smoking all of a sudden during pregnancy, you may suffer from headaches. It is always advised to ditch these habits when you start planning for a pregnancy. Immediate discontinuation can trigger the withdrawal symptoms which is most commonly –a headache
  6. Dehydration: Dehydration can cause loss of water from the brain tissue. This results in shrinking and pulling the brain away from the skull. This stimulates the pain receptors in the brain, causing a headache. Lack of water, likewise, reduces the blood volume, which in turn decrease the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, increasing the chances of a headache
  7. Preeclampsia: Without a previous history of a headache, if the expecting mother experiences increased blood pressure and a headache, she needs medical attention, as it can be the indication of a serious condition called preeclampsia that usually develops towards the end of the second trimester or during the third trimester of pregnancy
  8. Migraines: Another common type of headache, migraines, can strike some pregnant women for the first time, especially during the first trimester. Migraines can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, sound, and may last from 4 to 72 hours if left untreated. Most women report an improvement in migraines during pregnancy, but if you aren’t one of them, be assured that though troublesome, these headaches are unlikely to cause any complications during pregnancy

pregnant woman headache

How Can I Prevent A Headache During Pregnancy?

Avoiding certain situations and habits and following some health measures will help to prevent a headache during pregnancy.

  • Eat healthy food in small quantities in small intervals. Never leave the tummy empty for long. This will help to maintain normal blood sugar levels and decreases the chances of a headache
  • Always try to maintain a good posture, which places less pressure on shoulders and neck
  • Be careful that the head is well-positioned during sleeping
  • Try to follow a regular sleep schedule
  • Avoid intense and irritating smells and food habits that usually trigger a headache even before you get pregnant
  • Stay well, hydrated. Drink plenty of water and fresh juices
  • Avoid hot and crowded places
  • If you are a coffee lover, never cut it altogether. Reduce the quantity gradually and then quit. Taking around 15 days to the whole process will reduce the severity and chances of withdrawal sign – a headache
  • Practicing yoga will help to brush off the stress and strain. A headache caused due to the tension will not appear if you practice yoga daily
How Can Headaches During Pregnancy Be Treat?

If you are not able to prevent a headache and if it is worsening, some measures will help you to drive it away. Remember that the medicines that relieved you from a headache before getting pregnant like ibuprofen or aspirin are dangerous to take during pregnancy. Never go for over the counter medicines, your doctor will prescribe you the drugs that contain acetaminophen, and little quantity of sedative (to promote good sleep) that are relatively harmless to have during pregnancy.
However, during pregnancy, to soothe a headache, it is better to choose natural methods than going for other medications. Here are some steps, which help you to alleviate the headache:

  • If you are experiencing a headache due to a migraine, lying down for some time in a dark room without any sound will help to bring down the pain. Avoid crowds
  • If you are experiencing a headache due to sinus, using a humidifier and inhaling steam can help. A warm compressor around the eyes and nose can also be helpful to reduce the pain
  • If you are experiencing tension related a headache, lying down in a dimly lit, noiseless room applying a cold compressor in the forehead and eyes will help you to relax and reduce the discomfort of a headache
  • Drink plenty of water and eat food that digests easily. Eating small meals at short intervals will help to maintain normal blood sugar levels and will help to reduce the pain
  • Take a warm shower. This will help the nerves to relax faster
  • Head massage will also help to reduce the pain

pregnant woman hot compress

Precautions To Take When Headache Strikes During Pregnancy

You may take some steps before pregnancy to reduce headaches. Though they may be effective, they are not safe when you are pregnant. Here are some of the Don’ts you should follow during pregnancy:

  • Aspirin and ibuprofen
  • Herbal remedies like balms
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Evening primrose oil used to treat skin conditions triggers a headache

When you are pregnant, consult your doctor if a headache worries you irrespective of its severity. Even though most headaches do not harm the pregnancy, some of it can be an indication of an underlying problem. Likewise, discuss with your doctor before undergoing any treatment even it is herbal or natural cures.

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