Headaches in Early Pregnancy

Headaches in Early Pregnancy

Nearly all women have occasional
headaches, but having a headache in pregnancy is not fun. And managing headaches is
especially tricky in the first trimester when you should avoid many medicines. Whether
your
headache is from tension or is a full-blown migraine, there are some things you should
know.

What causes headaches in
pregnancy?

The exact cause of a headache isn’t
always clear. In the first trimester, changing hormone levels and blood volume may
play
a role. A dull, overall headache can come with stress, severe tiredness (fatigue),
and
eyestrain. Sinus headaches may be more likely because of the nasal congestion and
runny
nose that are common in early pregnancy. Hunger and low levels of blood sugar can
trigger headaches, too. Women who suddenly stop their morning coffee and sodas may
experience caffeine withdrawal headaches. Those who also suffer with nausea and vomiting
in early pregnancy can become dehydrated. This can also bring on a headache.

Migraine headaches are a common
type of headache in pregnancy. These painful, throbbing headaches are often felt on
one
side of the head and result from expansion of the blood vessels in the brain. The
misery
is sometimes accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light. A small
percentage of women with migraines also have an aura with the migraine. They see flashes
of light or feel tingling in their arms and legs.

When should I be concerned?

When a headache is severe, or just
doesn’t go away, or when you have dizziness, blurred vision, or changes in your field
of
vision, you should contact your healthcare provider. Headaches can sometimes be related
to blood pressure problems in pregnancy. If they are persistent or severe and happen
after 20 weeks of pregnancy, let your healthcare provider know. Although strokes during
pregnancy are rare, migraines can increase a pregnant woman’s risk for them. If you
have
migraines, report them to your provider.

What can I do about headaches?

Steps to manage headaches include
the following:

  • Stay away from any known
    headache triggers, including allergens and certain foods, like monosodium
    glutamate, cured meats, and strong cheeses.

  • Smoking is never a good idea
    in pregnancy. You should also stay away from secondhand smoke.

  • Try to eat well and drink
    plenty of fluids, especially if you are prone to morning sickness.

  • Reduce your stress level. Try
    a massage or cold pack to help with tension headaches. 

  • If your headache is a
    migraine, rest in a cool, dark room with no noise, and try using warm or cold
    compresses or an ice pack.

There is good news, however. Most
women have fewer headaches during pregnancy, especially after the first trimester.
And
those with a history of migraines often find there is improvement during pregnancy.