Having Headaches during Pregnancy, Here is Everything you Need to Know.

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Headaches during pregnancy may just be a trivial ailment or can be a non-specific symptom of a serious health problem like hypertension. Headaches are reported quite frequently in first trimester of pregnancy due to obvious effect of pregnancy hormones on blood vessels. If you have a history of migraine headaches or tension headaches in non-pregnant state, you may get more frequent bouts during pregnancy.

Why do you have headaches during pregnancy?

Headaches during pregnancy are more frequent due to a number of factors. Most notable cause is significant increase in total plasma volume that aggravates tension due to increased pressure on blood vessels in the head. Moreover, people in the habit of increased intake of caffeinated beverages also develop headache during pregnancy.

Other potential causes of headaches during pregnancy are allergies, dehydration, sinus infection and disturbed sleep. In some cases hypertension during pregnancy may also come along with severe headache.

Can headache during pregnancy interfere with the progression of pregnancy?

Headaches during pregnancy may be a bit problematic in the early trimesters due to abrupt rise in the level of pregnancy hormones; however episodes of headaches mostly disappear when you enter second trimester of pregnancy, especially as your body adapts to the new physiologic equilibrium. In case of an uncomplicated headache, there is no threat to your pregnancy or to your growing baby.

What are the signs of having migraine headaches during pregnancy?

About 5% pregnant moms experience their first migraine attack during pregnancy according to a latest research. Migraine is characterized by pulsating unilateral headaches (involving one side of the head) that don’t go away with simple pain relief medications like acetominophen.

A lot of women also experience associated symptoms like nausea, vomiting, flashes of light, photophobia (a condition in which headache is aggravated by bright light or even noise). If you’ve been experiencing migraine headaches before becoming pregnant, your symptoms may improve during pregnancy or even get worse.

What pain medications can be taken for headache during pregnancy?

Now that you’re pregnant, you must know there are a few pain-killers that aren’t safe in pregnancy. It’s better to see your physician if you have frequent episodes of severe headaches in order to rule out serious and organic diseases. However, for uncomplicated headache, you can take acetaminophen.

It’s mandatory to avoid pain-killers like aspirin and ibuprofen during pregnancy. Aspirin has been associated with birth defects in babies. For severe pain and disabling headaches, your healthcare provider may prescribe you a better remedy.

What are some tips to manage headaches during pregnancy?

Below recommendations may help you in managing the headaches without requiring medications.

You must figure out the triggering or aggravating agents and relieving agents for your headache. For example, some people develop headache after eating dairy products like cheese and sour cream or high sodium diet like hot dogs, artificial sweeteners, chocolates and pickles.

Ideally, it’s recommended you maintain a diary and note down all the triggering agents and most importantly avoid these agents for a headache free pregnancy.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle:

  • Avoid sleep deprivation and at least take 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Some expecting moms that are able to sleep better after warm showers have found headaches alleviated.

  • Make sure your lifestyle is healthy during pregnancy and also perform regular physical activity to relieve stress (as stress is the most common cause of headaches during pregnancy).

Massaging and other alternative therapies:

Massaging also benefits many expecting moms by relieving stress and improving blood circulation. Treat yourself to a nice neck, shoulder and head massage by professional massage therapists.

When should you see healthcare provider?

Although headaches are a harmless symptom of pregnancy but recurrent bouts of severe headaches may be a sign of more serious health issue like high blood pressure, eclampsia or visual emergencies like retinal detachment (reported in 0.5% of pregnant women).

You must report to your healthcare provider if:

  • you’re having recurrent attacks of severe headaches especially in second or third trimester of pregnancy. Associated with other symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, visual changes, among other warning signs of severity.
  • the headache doesn’t go away with ordinary pain relief medications, increasing in severity or you’re experiencing new symptoms like stiff neck, altered level of consciousness, lightheadedness, numbness or difficulty in maintaining normal speech, report immediately to your healthcare provider.
  • the headache is associated with a history of fall or significant trauma to head.

Headache is a common and minor symptom during pregnancy but it’s important that you must not ignore warning signs mentioned above, fail to take any medication for pain-relief or refuse to consult your healthcare provider in case of severe headaches during pregnancy.

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