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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.