Most women have headaches at some point of their lives – but the headaches in early pregnancy aren’t fun. For some unfortunate women, they’re wondering, why am I getting so many headaches while pregnant?!
Headaches are among the most common complaints pregnant women have, and they can sometimes become a daily event.
Headaches in early pregnancy
Managing life with a headache while also experiencing other early pregnancy symptoms is a pain – literally.
Whether your headache is the common garden variety or a migraine, there are some things you should know about headaches in early pregnancy.
What causes headaches in early pregnancy?
In the first trimester, your body is undergoing massive changes.
Hormone levels shift and surge. Your blood volume also increases. As a result of these changes, it is more likely you’ll experience frequent headaches.
In addition, there are other factors that can aggravate headaches in early pregnancy, such as:
- Low blood sugar
- Withdrawal from caffeine
- Poor posture.
Are Headaches Common In Early Pregnancy?
Headaches can happen to anyone during early pregnancy.
Some women don’t experience any headaches. Most women, though, will notice they have more frequent headaches during the first trimester.
Headaches can begin as early as 4 weeks of pregnancy. This is when the hormone levels really start to shift.
If you’re already prone to having headaches, pregnancy can make this worse.
You might notice your headache appears in a certain area of your head. Or it might travel about, appearing in different places.
Most headaches will be either dull and general, or sharp and throbbing.
Unless it’s a migraine, a headache won’t cause other symptoms.
Are Headaches Normal In Early Pregnancy?
It’s pretty normal to have headaches in early pregnancy. It isn’t much of a consolation, though, when you’re the one experiencing the pain.
Your headache might be the result of hormone surges or increased blood volume.
On the other hand, it could be due to something you’ve changed recently, since becoming pregnant.
- Giving up or cutting back on caffeine
- Eating less due to pregnancy sickness, which causes your blood sugar to drop
- Taking up excessive exercise
- Not enough or too much sleep
- Feeling stressed and tense
- Not drinking enough, due to increased need to urinate.
Most of these changes can be managed in a way that avoids giving you a headache.
Bad headaches in early pregnancy
If you’re one of the millions of women who experience migraines, you might be happy to know pregnancy tends to ease migraine symptoms.
Low estrogen is thought to play a role in migraine headaches. In pregnancy, your estrogen levels rise.
However, there are still other triggers for migraines that aren’t hormone related; Many of them are foods, including:
- Caffeine (coffee, soda drinks)
- Aged cheese and meats
- Monosodium glutamate
- Citrus fruits
- Spicy foods
- Foods and drinks containing aspartame (an artificial sweetener).
Avoiding known triggers can reduce the chances you’ll suffer from a migraine during pregnancy.
Bad headaches in early pregnancy aren’t usually a cause for alarm. Headaches in the second and third trimester should be investigated immediately, however, as they can be a sign of preeclampsia.
If you’re concerned about your headache and you’re in your first trimester, always seek medical advice.
How can I get rid of a headache while pregnant?
If headaches are causing you problems, make sure you following the tips above to avoid triggering them in the first place.
No matter what you do, however, headaches in early pregnancy might still happen.
If they do, you might like to try the following remedies to relieve your headache:
- Apply a cold compress or ice pack to the back of your neck
- For sinus headaches, apply a warm compress over your eyes and nose
- Have a massage, or do some yoga to stretch out your shoulder and neck muscles
- Rest in a darkened room
- Have a warm bath
- Cold, or very warm water on the head can help; try one or the other to find out which works for you
- Try acupuncture or acupressure
- Sniff peppermint or lavender oil, but don’t ingest it or use it on your skin
- Body work therapy, such as osteopathy, to improve your posture and alignment.
Early pregnancy headache prevention tips
If you’d like to try to prevent headaches, also try the following tips:
- Step down your caffeine intake rather than go cold turkey.
- If you’re struggling to eat, try to have small and frequent meals that contain plenty of healthy fat and protein. This will keep your blood sugars stable.
- Increase exercise gradually – especially if you’re not used to it.
- Aim to have 8 hours sleep each night. Early pregnancy tiredness is debilitating and a micro nap might help you get through the afternoon.
- Reduce stress in your life. Take up meditation or yoga, or have a massage.
- Keep your water intake up during the day and avoid drinking too much at night. Having electrolytes can help improve hydration compared to normal water. You can read more about the benefits of electrolytes during pregnancy.
What can I take for headaches during early pregnancy?
Unfortunately, you might simply be prone to headaches in early pregnancy and the above prevention and relief methods won’t work.
Always seek advice from your care provider if you’re experiencing headaches that are ongoing and you can’t relieve them naturally.
Also, be sure not to take medications for headaches unless they are recommended by your care provider.
Medications containing aspirin and ibuprofen aren’t recommended for most pregnant women. Find out more about what’s safe to take in our article about pain medication during pregnancy.
When should I be worried about headaches during early pregnancy?
If your headaches are persistent, become worse, or are different from normal, seek medical attention.
This is particularly important if you’re experiencing other symptoms, such as blurry vision, pain in your abdomen, swelling or balance problems, or you have trouble speaking. According to a study, some other headache red flags include: headache that changes with posture (for example, standing up), headaches that wake you up, and recent travel where infectious disease may be an issue.
Of course, if at any time you are worried about yourself, your baby, or the pregnancy, it always pays to check in with your health care provider for peace of mind.