Headaches During Pregnancy: Causes and Treatment
Headaches are common during pregnancy, affecting around 39% of women, and they’re usually nothing to worry about. However they can be disruptive. The good news is there are several things you can try to help alleviate them.
Headaches in Your First Trimester of Pregnancy
When you become pregnant, there’s a surge of hormones and an increase in the blood which can cause headaches. These can be aggravated further by poor posture, stress and changes in your vision (your eyes might feel more sensitive to light and you might experience blurring).
These are other factors, which are also common causes of headaches:
• Morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum
• Lack of sleep
• Caffeine withdrawal
• Low blood sugar levels
• Certain foods – Common headache- inducing foods include chocolate, tomatoes, cheese, dairy and yeast.
Headaches in Your Third Trimester of Pregnancy
Headaches in your third trimester are usually caused by poor posture due to the extra weight you’re carrying. Stretches for your neck and shoulders can help, as can prenatal classes such as yoga.
You should speak with you midwife if you experience any of the following:
• Blurred vision
• Pain below your ribs
• Sudden swelling in your face, hands, feet or ankles
These can be signs of another, more serious condition, and should be checked out immediately.
How to Help Relieve Headaches
Start by taking care of the basics. Make sure you are well hydrated, getting enough sleep and eating a balanced diet. If you’re feeling stressed, find ways to help yourself relax. Massage can be a great relief! There’s also essential stretches you can do to help relieve tension around your shoulders and neck.
You can also take pain relief. Paracetamol doesn’t have harmful effects for either you or your baby, but you are advised to take it for the shortest time possible. Your midwife or GP can give you more advice about taking paracetamol or pain relief during pregnancy. Methods of pain relief to avoid are those containing codeine and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, unless prescribed by your doctor.
The Difference Between Headaches and Migraines
Headache pain severity varies from person to person, but they usually come with the following symptoms:
• Dull ache
• Throbbing or pulsing pain
• Severe stabbing pain on one or both sides of your head
• Severe stabbing pain behind one of both eyes
Migraines usually include these additional sensations:
• Seeing flashes of light
• Blind spots in your vision
Headaches can be a frustrating part of pregnancy, but there are ways to help relieve it. If you continue to experience headaches, consult with your GP or midwife.