The Headaches of Pregnancy

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On top of the other headaches of pregnancy, add one more: the real thing. 

In your first and third trimester, headaches can be very common. And they can be especially bothersome because you may not be able to take the same pain killers that you used before pregnancy. Why are headaches so frequent when you’re expecting? What causes them? And, most important, what should you do about them?

Don’t take NSAIDS such as ibuprofen (Advil) during pregnancy. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or small amounts of caffeine, however, are considered safe.

Pregnancy Headache Causes

Pregnant women suffer from headaches most frequently in the first and third trimesters. In the first trimester, you can blame hormones and increased blood volume. In the third trimester, posture problems and tension from supporting extra weight are the normal culprits. High blood pressure from preeclampsia can be a more serious cause. But headaches are common throughout pregnancy and may be caused by these issues:

  • Lack of sleep 
  • Low blood sugar
  • Poor posture 
  • Dehydration
  • Stress
  • Caffeine withdrawal
  • Changes in vision

If you’ve had migraine headaches before pregnancy, you may be in luck and experience fewer during pregnancy. However, some expectant women have the same amount of migraines, or more. Talk to your doctor about whether you can take your normal pain medication while you’re pregnant.

Preventing Headaches

As with most health matters, prevention is the best cure for pregnancy headaches. Here are some ways you can prevent headaches while you’re expecting:

  1. Eat frequent small meals: This will help keep your blood sugar stable.
  2. Drink plenty of water: Prevent dehydration by drinking water for two.  
  3. Get enough sleep: The discomforts of pregnancy can make sleep difficult, but don’t apologize for going to bed early and doing whatever you need to rest enough.
  4. Exercise: Working out during pregnancy is good for your general health and preventing headaches.
  5. Work on your posture: Be attentive to sitting and standing with your body aligned.
  6. Cut out coffee slowly: A cup or two of coffee a day is safe during pregnancy. If you normally drink more, don’t go cold turkey. Gradually reduce your intake.
  7. Seek quiet places with good lighting: As much as you can, avoid fluorescent lighting and loud environments.
  8. Avoid trigger foods: Chocolate, yogurt, alcohol, breads with fresh yeast, aged cheese, peanuts, preserved meats and sour cream can cause headaches.

Headache Remedies

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Never take any medicine without talking to your doctor first. Don’t take NSAIDS such as ibuprofen (Advil) during pregnancy. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or small amounts of caffeine, however, are considered safe. Ask your health care provider for the right dosage. 

And before you reach for medicine, try these remedies:

  • For a tension headache or a migraine, go to a dark place and close your eyes for 15 minutes. Place an icepack at the base of your neck. 
  • For a sinus headache, use a humidifier or steam inhalation to help with congestion. Four times a day, alternate hot and cold compresses every 30 seconds on the spot that hurts, for a total of 10 minutes. 

When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you suffer with any of these issues:

  • A severe, lingering headache (persisting more than four hours)
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision or changes in your vision
  • Fever
  • Sudden dramatic weight gain
  • Puffiness in your face or hands

Also, if you are concerned that your headache differs from normal, contact your health care provider.

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.