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Headaches During Pregnancy

written by: Diana Cooper • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 6/29/2011

Taking medications should be avoided when treating headaches during pregnancy. Learn common causes and know what you can do to safely treat headaches and help prevent them from coming back.

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    Headaches During Pregnancy

    Common Causes

    Changes

    The body goes through a lot of changes when pregnant. An increase in blood volume and a rise in hormones are believed to cause headaches while pregnant, especially during the first trimester. By the second trimester, the body normally adapts to the changes and headaches become less common. However, they can become more common in the third trimester because of excess weight. Maintaining a healthy weight and using good posture can help prevent headaches caused by excess weight.

    Stress

    Stress is hard to avoid but there are ways to help cope with it in a positive manner. Try deep breathing or meditation. Find time to relax, if even for a few minutes a day. Take a warm bath (if not contraindicated) or read a good book. Eat healthy, drink plenty of fluids, exercise regularly (as permitted), and get adequate sleep and rest.

    Low Blood Sugar

    Low blood sugar (another common problem during pregnancy) can be a cause of headaches. To help prevent this, eat small frequent meals and limit sugar.

    Caffeine Withdrawals

    If you were use to drinking a lot of caffeine (for example, from coffee or sodas) and you stopped or limited your intake when finding out you were pregnant, you can be going through caffeine withdrawals which can cause a headache. The body should adapt to this change overtime.

    Natural Remedies for Headaches During Pregnancy

    Heat. Take a hot shower or place a warm moist compress around your neck. The heat will improve blood circulation and relax tense muscles.

    Massage. Gently massage (or have someone massage) your temples, shoulders, or neck.

    Chamomile. Drink a cup of German chamomile tea 1-2 times during the day as needed and before going to bed.

    When to be Concerned

    Most headaches are harmless but some can be caused by a medical problem like preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy).

    Notify your health care provider if:

    • your headache comes on suddenly
    • your headache is severe
    • you are experiencing visual changes (such as blurriness or spots before your eyes), epigastric pain (pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen), nausea, vomiting, and/or swelling in the hands, legs, or face
    • your headache is accompanied with a fever or stiff neck
    • it occurs after a trauma like a fall
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