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Headache during Pregnancy: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Headache during Pregnancy: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Pregnancy comes with a host of new or resurfacing issues. With the massive hormonal changes in the body, headache is one of the most prominent. Even though every pregnancy is different, you may experience either a primary or secondary type of headache. These can be either due to existing health conditions or havoc created by hormonal changes.

headache during pregnancy

While primary headaches occur on their own, often without any pre-existing condition or a sign of complications in the pregnancy, secondary headaches can arise due to a complication or condition in your pregnancy.

Examples of primary headaches include migraines, cluster, and tension headaches. These can often be taken care of with medicine or sometimes even resolve on their own. Though if you have a severe headache, you should speak to your doctor. Do not self-medicate as it can affect your baby.

Examples of secondary headaches include hypertension-related headaches or headaches due to impending eclampsia. These happen due to another medical condition.

It is vital to understand that if you do experience headaches during pregnancy, do not consume or inject any medication without consulting your doctor first.

Symptoms

Symptoms of both primary and secondary headache during pregnancy can often be the same. Headache during pregnancy is a common issue, though should not be ignored if severe and/or persistent in nature. Some of the classic signs of headache during pregnancy include:

  1. Nausea
  2. Vomiting
  3. High blood pressure
  4. Mild ache
  5. Throbbing pain
  6. Headache on both sides of your head
  7. Pain above your eyes
  8. Pinching or unbearable pain
  9. Blind spots
  10. Flashes of light

Some symptoms can also indicate migraine pain. Therefore, it is essential to speak to your doctor before consuming a medicine.

headache during pregnancy

Causes of Headache During Pregnancy

Causes of headache during pregnancy is often dependent on your health condition or trimester. This is because hormonal changes have a huge role to play in this regard. They can sometimes expose you to temporary conditions that resolve once you deliver.

During the first trimester, tension headaches are the most common type of headache that can arise. This is because your body is going through a plethora of changes that can cause a disruption in your blood sugar levels. These headaches can also happen because of weight changes.

Some causes of headaches during the first trimester are:

  1. Hypersensitivity to light, food smell, etc.
  2. Reduced physical activity
  3. Poor eating habits or nutrition intake
  4. Poor sleeping patterns
  5. Stress
  6. Nausea and vomiting
  7. Dehydration
  8. Eye power change

During the second and third trimester, your causes can evolve and happen due to reasons such as:

  1. Conditions developed during pregnancy, such as hypertension or diabetes
  2. Poor diet
  3. Bad posture
  4. Extra weight gain (more than required)
  5. Inadequate sleep
  6. Strain in the muscles

Risk Factors

Headache for pregnancy can happen due to many reasons. Some risk factors that make you prone to getting these headaches are:

  1. Already existing medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, migraine etc.
  2. Improper lifestyle habits like poor diet and no exercise
  3. Pre-existing hormonal imbalance because of issues like PCOD
  4. Obesity or drastic weight gain
  5. Dehydration

Speak to your doctor about a complete body analysis to understand what may expose you to headaches during pregnancy.

Headache During Pregnancy: Treatment

Treatment for headache during pregnancy depends on the underlying issue or condition that causes it. Often, tension headaches can resolve on their own with minimal supervision and with the help of home remedies.

If you have a headache due to hypertension, your doctor may prescribe medications to bring it down. Or if you have low blood pressure, your doctor may recommend some changes in your diet.

If you have migraine headaches, your doctor may prescribe beta-blockers such as propranolol and labetalol. Though these will only be recommended in low doses.

For treating regular headaches, acetaminophen is often prescribed. Though these should be consumed under your doctor’s guidance.

Diet and physical activity play an important role in treating a headache during pregnancy. This is because increased hunger pangs can often lead to unhealthy eating habits and lethargy.

Therefore, including all nutrients in your diet and doing mild exercises such as pre-natal yoga can make a difference. Please consult your doctor before incorporating any such changes in your lifestyle.

There are some serious illnesses such as sinus infections, aneurysm or brain tumor that can be the cause of your headaches and thus require more serious intervention. Hence, consult your doctor if your headaches persist and give you a pulsating pain that is uncontrollable.

Alternative therapies to treat a headache during pregnancy include homeopathy, Ayurveda and pranic healing. These are often harmless, but ingredients in Ayurveda may not suit those who have developed sensitivity during this phase. Speak to your doctor before starting any concoction-based treatment.

Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes to avoid a headache during pregnancy should ideally start before you plan to have a baby. These can also be incorporated when you become pregnant. Some of them are:

  1. Eating a nutritious diet rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, fats, and proteins. Keeping your salt and sugar intake in check is highly advised.
  2. Exercising regularly will help keep your blood circulation healthy.
  3. Getting regular check-ups done to avoid ignoring any condition.
  4. Staying hydrated.

Home Remedies

Some home remedies that can help you if you get a headache during pregnancy are:

  1. Drinking water to hydrate your body well.
  2. Drinking fresh fruit or vegetable juices to cover any deficiencies.
  3. A gentle head massage with or without warm oil.
  4. Getting plenty of rest.
  5. Sleeping in a dark room.
  6. Trying ice-pack therapy. Please use ice covered in a cloth.

Learn more about pregnancy problems and health issues, here.

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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Headaches in Early Pregnancy https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=headaches-in-early-pregnancy-134-3

What can I do about headaches during pregnancy? I’d rather not take medication.: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/expert-answers/headaches-during-pregnancy/faq-20058265/ Accessed 29/06/2020

Why Do Women Experience Pregnancy Headaches?: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-do-women-experience-pregnancy-headaches// Accessed 29/06/2020

Headaches in Early Pregnancy

https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/headaches/ Accessed June 23, 2021

Headaches during pregnancy

https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/headaches-during-pregnancy Accessed June 23, 2021

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Written by Nikita Bhalla Updated Jun 23
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel
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