headaches during pregnancy

Headaches during pregnancy can be, quite literally, a pain in the neck.

In our daily lives, we deal with multiple headaches, but we normally have pills at hand to keep the pain under control. And that usually works, doesn't it? But what happens when you are expecting a baby? Can you take medication to get over pregnancy headaches? What can you do to soothe that squeezing pain without harming your baby, if that's a possibility? And, what's even more, what are those headaches caused by? 

Are these questions a 'headache' to you? If so, don't miss the following lines, in which you'll find the best tips and information related to headaches in pregnancy. Keep reading to get some relief!


Are headaches during pregnancy normal? 

The answer to that question is easy: yes! Headaches during pregnancy can perfectly fit into the profile of annoying symptoms that you may suffer from throughout these months. It's a common side effect that often shows up during the early stage of your pregnancy. In general, pregnancy headaches are tension headaches that can 'hit' you steadily on both sides of the head or the back of it, sometimes travelling down the neck. Women who tend to have these kinds of aches are more given to get them while being pregnant as well.


What causes headaches during pregnancy?

Doctors haven't been able to determine why pregnant women must deal with headaches, though they have some hypotheses about it. Among these, the strongest aims at a combination of pregnancy hormones, which are shaking up your body, and the changes in your blood volume and circulation. Besides this, it is thought that changing your lifestyle when carrying a child can easily trigger headaches: cutting down on caffeine, giving up smoking and starting a special diet could have a connection with them. In addition, you shouldn't ignore other afflictions that can cause you headaches on a regular basis, such as the flu or a cold.


Can I take painkillers to relieve the pain? 

As a future mummy, this is a doubt that will cross your mind either because of having headaches or other pains. Unfortunately, most painkillers aren't safe to take during pregnancy. These include ibuprofen, aspirin and migraine drugs, which can increase the risk of having a miscarriage, especially in the first trimester of your pregnancy.

If you can't handle your headaches during pregnancy, then you can take a low dose of paracetamol, which won't endanger your growing baby. In case that doesn't relieve the pain, contact your GP to look for alternative options.


What can I do to relieve them?

Considering that using drugs isn't, mostly, allowed, you need to look for other ways to ease headaches in pregnancy. Here you have some suggestions to make them better. Try and see which one works best for you:

  • Create a headache diary in order to figure out what triggers the pain. Keep track of the foods you are having and other elements that can give you a headache, such as loud noises, strong odours and lights.
  • Apply a cold compress to the affected part of your head, especially if you are dealing with a tension headache
  • Get some rest and make sure that you are sleeping enough
  • Massage your head, focusing on the pulse points of your forehead
  • Have a warm shower, if you have a tension headache, or a cold one, when a migraine is responsible for your pain
  • Avoid getting stressed. Find ways to chill out and decompress, like resting in a dark room
  • Keep your blood sugar levels as regular as possible. Don't go hungry and thirsty, because that can definitely turn into a pregnancy headache. Be sure you always have snacks within reach!


What about migraines?

Talking about headaches during pregnancy, it is important to pinpoint that these also include migraines. Statistically, about one in five women will have a migraine at some point in her life. And, out of those, up to 16% will suffer their first migraine headache while being pregnant. A migraine has some distinctive features, but in general it occurs in the form of a throbbing pain located on one side of the head. It can last from four to 72 hours and it often comes along with other symptoms, like sensitivity to noise, nausea and vomiting. Despite not being that common, some people have what's been called a migraine with aura, which is preceded by changes in the vision such as twinkling lights and blind spots. These symptoms usually last for about half an hour, until the headache starts.

Studies have revealed a curious fact: women who have or have had bad migraines around their menstrual cycle, tend to experience milder headaches when pregnant.


When should I worry?

Though headaches during pregnancy are normal, there are times when they can be a sign of something else. You need to listen to your body and be aware of red flags, including:

  • A bad headache that starts during the second trimester of your pregnancy and that can be accompanied by nausea, visual changes and abdominal pain. This could be a sign of preeclampsia, so you'll need to have blood and urine tests right away.
  • You get a headache accompanied by fever and a rigid neck
  • A violent headache that wakes you up and doesn't go away
  • A headache that appears after having an accident and suffering an impact on your head
  • You have a sinus infection, which needs to be taken care of with antibiotics. Its symptoms cover nasal congestion, pressure under your eyes and dental pain, among others.

Don't hesitate to visit your doctor if you have any of the symptoms listed above. He or she will decide on the best treatment for both you and your baby.


How can I prevent headaches during pregnancy? 

It's not easy to prevent pregnancy headaches, since why they occur it isn't completely clear. However, and besides creating a headache diary in which you keep track of possible triggers, you should pay special attention to your diet. There are certain foods, like chocolate, sweeteners and nitrates, that are connected to migraines. Try to find them and talk to your GP for more information and possible changes in your diet that, at the same time, don't jeopardise your little one.