Headaches During Pregnancy – 5 Causes and Remedies

Headaches During Pregnancy – 5 Causes and Remedies

Being pregnant can be a headache at times – literally.

The demands on your body as you grow a baby and the radical way it’s changing to create new life can bring some unpleasant ailments.

Headaches during pregnancy are one of the not-so-joyous things many expectant mamas deal with.

Hormonal fluctuations – the same thing that causes those early pregnancy emotions – can trigger headaches during the first trimester. During the last trimester, you might experience headaches due to stress and tension. The adorable (and heavy) baby bump can put a strain on your body.

It can be frustrating that these headaches are surfacing at a time when you’re trying to avoid medications. Fortunately, there are safe remedies to help alleviate headaches during pregnancy.

Dealing With Headaches During Pregnancy

Here are a five causes of pregnancy related headaches and remedies to help you find relief safely for you and your baby:

#1: Headaches Triggered By First Trimester Hormones

Once you conceive your progesterone levels rise to support the pregnancy. Progesterone relaxes the uterus and your blood vessels, including those in your head and neck. This, coupled with increased blood flow, can cause pounding headaches.

The following remedies might offer relief:

  • A cool compress, such as a bag of frozen peas, where you feel the pain or on the back of your neck
  • Aromatherapy – be sure to ask a trained health practitioner to choose a safe scent
  • A gentle head, neck and shoulder rub
  • Deep and focused breathing, similar to breathing used during yoga and exercise

#2: Headaches Caused By Caffeine Withdrawal

If you’re a heavy coffee drinker cutting down due to pregnancy, you might experience withdrawal headaches. Caffeine can be very physically addicting so when you stop abruptly the headaches can be quite severe.

While it is considered safe to have some caffeine during pregnancy, many women choose to cut down or eliminate it completely. If your headaches appear the first day you reduce or eliminate caffeine, withdrawal might be the culprit.

You might find relief with the following:

  • Reduce your caffeine intake slowly, dropping a bit each day until you reach your desired amount
  • If a headache pops up, try a piece of high quality dark chocolate

#3: Headaches Due To Dehydration or Blood Sugar

Morning sickness, food aversions and an increase in blood volume can make it difficult to stay hydrated and maintain steady blood sugar levels. Headaches, worsening nausea and dizziness can be the result of inadequate or infrequent food and fluid intake.

Morning sickness can make it very challenging for some. If you’re plagued with it, finding ways to manage it might reduce headaches.

Other things that can help include:

  • Small, frequent sips of water or electrolyte beverages (coconut water is great)
  • Frequent small meals or snacks
  • Whole grains, healthy fats and proteins can help keep your blood sugar steady
  • Eat fruit with high water content, like melons or grapes

#4: Headaches Caused By Sinus Pressure and Congestion

An increase in sinus pressure is a common, but lesser known, pregnancy ailment. Many women, pregnant or not, also suffer from allergies.

In the absence of severe pain or fever, sinus headaches might be relieved by:

  • Alternating hot and cool compresses where you feel the pain
  • Staying adequately hydrated to keep mucous flowing
  • Avoiding allergens when possible
  • Use steam or a humidifier to help relieve congestion

If you have a fever, mucous is green or yellow, or you are concerned reach out to your healthcare provider. A sinus infection might be to blame and medication could be necessary.

#5: Headaches From Pregnancy Related Fatigue and Muscle Aches

If you’ve ever been sleep deprived you know that yucky feeling headache that accompanies the fatigue. It can be easy to forget what a monumental task pregnancy is, but you are making a human and that’s no small feat. The energy it takes to grow a human can leave you fatigued and achy.

It can be easier said than done, but make sure you are getting plenty of rest. You might also find relief with the following:

  • Regular exercise, such as yoga (be sure to check with your provider if you have an activity restrictions due to pregnancy complications)
  • Eat a whole foods diet to get energy from proper nutrition
  • Catch extra rest whenever you can, naps are a pregnant mama’s best friend
  • Listen to your body, rest as needed and adjust your activity level if necessary
  • A warm bath to relax and soothe achy muscles
  • A prenatal massage

Additional Remedies For Headaches During Pregnancy

Even when you’re uncertain of your triggers, you might still find relief with the following:

  • Regular chiropractic care
  • Maintain good posture to help with the strain of carrying a baby bump
  • Reflexology, homeopathy and herbal remedies can be helpful. Be sure to work with a qualified caregiver to make choices safe for pregnancy
  • Acupuncture
  • Practice relaxation and visualizations
  • Spending time in calm, quiet and dim places to give your senses a break

When Should I Be Concerned About Headaches During Pregnancy?

There are multiple causes for pregnancy headaches, as unpleasant as they can be, they are rarely a cause for concern. For a few women, a headache is a symptom of underlying health concerns.

If you experience any of the following, you should consider seeking medical advice:

  • Fever
  • A sinus headache accompanied by green or yellow mucous
  • Sudden onset of severe pain
  • Blurred or sudden vision changes
  • Sudden weight gain or swelling
  • Severe dizziness or loss of consciousness

Severe headaches or migraines and visual disturbances are symptoms of preeclampsia. This is a serious condition for mother and baby that occurs in around 5-8% of pregnancies. Studies have found that women with a history of migranes may be more at risk of preeclampsia and other hypertensive conditions.

With good hydration, rest and relaxation, and a few remedies, you’ll hopefully be able to take the edge off headaches during pregnancy, and cope better physically, emotionally and mentally.

If you continue to struggle with more frequent and intense headaches, contact your midwife or doctor for advice and/or treatment.

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Maria Silver Pyanov is a mama of four energetic boys and one unique little girl. She is also a doula and childbirth educator. She's an advocate for birth options, and adequate prenatal care and support. She believes in the importance of rebuilding the village so no parent feels unsupported.

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