Headaches During Pregnancy

Headaches During Pregnancy


Headaches and Pregnancy

One problem expecting women quite often complain on to their doctor is a headache. As a rule, it appears either at the beginning of pregnancy, i.e. during the first trimester, or at the end of it. In most cases it is not dangerous, if it is not followed by other symptoms, but an additional examination will never do harm.

There are two essentially different types of headache pregnant women have: "strain headache" and migraine. The characteristic feature of the first one is a squeezing feeling (as if a hoop on the head), which spreads on the entire head, but most commonly – on the nape. It is caused by phsycho-emotional stress, overfatigue, or neck muscles overstrain.

Migraine is caused by other reasons, and has several specific differences: paroxysmal pulsating pain in one (left or right) side of the head, followed by nausea, fatigue and sometimes vomiting. It almost always has a triggering factor, after which an attack happens.

The causes of migraine are related to a change of tonus of head blood vessels, which happens due to hormonal reorganization in a female organism. The triggering factors may be: stress, anxiety, overfatigue, lack of sleep or excessive sleeping, bright light, swift change of weather, addictions like smoking, or loud sounds.

Some experts also emphasize that the expecting women should note that migraine is often reasoned by wrong diet, and also by consumption of products which can cause attacks. These would include strong tea and coffee, citrus fruit, canned food, sweet carbonated drinks, and red wine.

The third and the most serious cause of headache during the late stages of pregnancy can be preeclampsia – physical condition, under which a person suffers from arterial pressure increase and disturbance in the work of cardiovascular system.

How to Relieve a Pregnant Woman's Headache

When a person suffers from a headache, his first and almost only thought is to get rid of it. Some headache medicine is allowed to be taken during pregnancy, but before that you should necessarily try non-drug treatment. It is especially true because by taking a pill you eliminate only a symptom without fighting the actual cause, which so often lies in stress and in a strained state of organism.


  1. Try to relax completely and think only of the good. A good rest, calm music, walking in fresh air, and a full-night sleep – this is what helps get rid of stressful state. For many people it can be very hard, and if so, what helps in such situation is a specially designed relaxation program. They have it, for example, in centers for pregnant women, or one can by a CD with a recording.
  2. Go see a massage therapist or an expert in osteopathy. If the cause of the headache is muscle strain, these methods can do a miracle. Moreover, the doctor will show you basic exercises, which you will be able to do at home.
  3. Eat properly and regularly! Each pregnant woman must eat high-quality full meals, dividing them into small portions, which she should eat often avoiding eating a lot at a time. In such case when you cannot come home to have lunch or dinner, you can take some snacks to go, for example, fruit or cookies. Hunger affects your head very negatively!
  4. Do special gymnastics for the pregnant regularly. Most of the experts are firm about regular physical activities being really helpful to pregnant women to get rid of many problems, including headaches caused by stress or tension. The trainings normalize blood sugar level, restore respiratory rhythm, and you can get rid of short wind completely.
  5. Make a warm or cold compress. Apply to a sore point a thick fabric, soaking it beforehand in water of the necessary temperature. Usually, the warm compresses are more effective for relieving migraine, and the cold ones, applied at the base of the neck – for relieving strain headache.
  6. Take alternating or cool shower. This method is one of the most effective for fighting strong migraines. It helps quickly expand blood vessels and get relief.

Is it Allowed to take Headache Drugs During Pregnancy

Headaches During Pregnancy 1

Of course, there are some safe drugs. But do not get down to them as soon as possible – they relieve only a symptom, while the cause of the headache remains. Consult the doctor before taking them.

The safest headache medicine during pregnancy – paracetamol – is allowed at any stages, but only as long as you do not exceed the dose. In large doses paracetamol can turn out to be dangerous, so, even if headache is strong, do not take more than 3 grams of it a day (6500 mg tablets). This is also the reason why you should not be taking paracetamol for longer than 3 days without the doctor’s prescription.

Ibuprofen (Nurofen) has another anesthetizing mechanism, and can be effective for relieving headache. It can be taken during pregnancy, but not later than after 30 weeks, because at that stage it can provoke an early closure of the fetus’s ductus arteriosus and disturbance of the work of his heart and lungs. Day dose also must not exceed 3 g total taken in multiple portions. An intake longer than 3 days is only possible with the doctor’s prescription.

It is better to not use any combined headache drugs, such as Pentalgin, Tempalgin, an so on during pregnancy. Apart from the main active ingredient, there are additives which can negatively affect the fetus. Migraine triptan-based medicine (sumatriptan etc.) is strictly prohibited, because they have a clear abortive effect.

When it is Necessary to Consult a Doctor

A headache during the late stages can be a sign of high blood pressure. It is quite a dangerous state, and, combined with traces of protein in urine, is called preeclampsia. You must consult the doctor as soon as possible and begin the treatment of arterial hypertension.

You also must consult a doctor if:

  • headache appears in the morning, right after waking up;
  • migraine became constant, and of a more intense character, and common methods of fighting it are no longer helpful;
  • pain is followed by disturbance of the nervous system: decreased sensitivity, numbness and spasms in the limbs, blurred vision, impairment of hearing or speech;
  • pain is followed by increased blood pressure, swelling, or nausea.

Will the Headache Remain Till the End of Pregnancy

Most likely, no. The majority of the women who suffered headaches at the early stages of pregnancy get rid of it completely by the second trimester. Some experts are sure that this fact is connected with stabilization of hormonal levels and future mother’s organism adaptation to pregnancy.

One Comment

  • Sofia says:

    I have had a headache for several days already. What pill can I take to relieve the pain?

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