Your belly is expanding, you’re feeling sick after most meals, and now come the headaches. Headaches during pregnancy can be intense, and they’re just another part of being pregnant.
Most mothers-to-be will get headaches during their pregnancy, so you’re not alone.
There are a lot of things you can do (we’ll talk more about this below) to alleviate your headaches.
Table of Contents
- What Causes Headaches During Pregnancy?
- Causes for Concern With Headaches During Pregnancy
- 3 Ways to Alleviate Headaches
- 9 Ways to Prevent Headaches During Pregnancy
- 3 Exercise for Headache Relief
What Causes Headaches During Pregnancy?
If you’ve read any article on sickness, food aversions or aches when you’re pregnant, you’ll notice one common culprit time and time again: hormones. Your body is going through a rollercoaster of emotions, and your hormone levels are skyrocketing in the process.
And these hormones are to blame for your headaches.
Blood pressure levels and flow are both increasing, too, which can lead to headaches or lightheadedness. But these are just the most common causes of headaches. For even a non-pregnant person, headaches are a rather common occurrence.
Below are a few of the most common causes for headaches when a woman is pregnant:
- Sinus infection
But the good news is that most of these causes aren’t anything too serious. For most women, they’ll have headaches that come and go, and nothing negative will happen to them or their unborn baby.
Causes for Concern With Headaches During Pregnancy
There aren’t many times when you need to be concerned with a headache. As previously mentioned, headaches are the norm when you’re pregnant, and you’ll overcome your headache before you know it.
But there are some instances when you should be concerned:
- Persistant Headaches
- Your head has been pounding for more than four hours now, and the pain hasn’t subsided. If this is the case, it’s time to call your practitioner to ensure that there isn’t a serious underlying cause for your headaches.
- A fever and a headache together likely indicate that you’re sick. There are dozens of illnesses that cause a headache and fever, so call your doctor and schedule an appointment.
- Blurry Vision
- In the event that you have blurry vision and a headache, you’ll want to go to the emergency room or visit a medical professional promptly.
- Everything seems to swell when a woman is pregnant, but when swelling occurs in the hands or face, you will need to be checked by a medical professional if the swelling occurs alongside of a headache.
If the headache is so painful that you cannot function properly, this is another time when it’s wise to speak to a medical professional. You may be given a mild pain reliever to alleviate the headaches that you’re experiencing.
3 Ways to Alleviate Headaches
There are numerous ways to get rid of a headache, and many of them are off-limits to expecting mothers. Over-the-counter headache relievers may not be recommended if you have a high-risk pregnancy, have an underlying medical condition, or are on other medications that may conflict with the over-the-counter medication.
Three go-to remedies for headaches during pregnancy include:
1. Acetaminophen for All Headaches
Acetaminophen is better known as Tylenol. For the majority of women, Tylenol will provide adequate headache relief and is considered safe. But we always caution women from taking any over-the-counter products without consulting with their doctors.
Tylenol is considered generally safe for pregnant women, too.
But you can’t just take any medication aimed at alleviating headaches. Ibuprofen, for example, is not recommended for women that are pregnant, and should be avoided.
Tylenol will normally be allowed by your doctor and is a good way to alleviate any headache despite the cause.
2. Migraines and Tension Headache Relief
Migraines are not fun. Every woman dreads migraine or tension headaches. And a few tips can help you find some form of relief at this time:
- Lay Down
- If you can, go find a quiet and dark room to lay down and keep your eyes closed. Even lighting can cause your headache pain to become exasperated.
- Kick Up Your Feet
- Stuck at a desk? Kick up your feet and close your eyes during a break. A quick 15 minutes to relax will do the trick.
- Ice Your Neck
- If your neck feels tight and tense, you have a tension headache (oh joy!). There are two ways to overcome a tension headache: place an ice pack on the area for 15 – 20 minutes, or get a massage. In the event that you have a pair of helping hands available, ask your significant other to give you a neck massage. After all, it’s the least he can do. If you have the budget for it, a professional massage does wonders for pregnant women and will relieve most aches, pains and headaches.
3. Relief for Sinus Headaches
Allergies and sinuses can cause your head to pound. Thankfully, relief for these headaches is rather straightforward and simple.
- Steam Inhalation
- Place a pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Place a towel over your head and start to inhale the steam. This will act as a decongestant and will provide you with some relief. You can also add in essential oils that will further help provide relief.
- A good humidifier can be placed in the same room that you sleep in at night, or in any room that you spend the most time in during the day. Adding moisture into the air will allow you to decongest.
- Drink Water
- Adding additional cups of water into your diet can help alleviate symptoms.
If you fear that you have a sinus infection, you’ll want to consult with your doctor. Medications may be provided to ensure that your sinus infection clears and that your headache is remedied in the process.
9 Ways to Prevent Headaches During Pregnancy
You’re pregnant and you’ve heard the headache horror stories time and time again from friends and family. This sounds like something you never want to happen to you, but what can you do to prevent headaches? A lot.
There are numerous preventative measures you can take to stop headaches right in their tracks.
1. Rest A Lot
- You’re pregnant – you deserve to rest. Fatigue is a common cause of headaches. During the first and third trimester especially, you’ll need to rest more often. A good night of sleep and a nap or two will help prevent headaches.
2. Don’t Oversleep
- There is such a thing as too much sleep. While it’s recommended that you sleep well, if you sleep too much, oversleeping can also lead to headaches.
3. Eat Properly
- You may be a light eater, but your unborn baby needs nutrients. If you don’t eat enough for your baby, your baby will still steal away your body’s nutrients. Eat several small meals throughout the day and keep nutritious snacks next to you at all times. A bag of trail mix in your glove compartment or in your desk will work wonders to stop headaches caused by undereating.
4. Keep Track of Your Foods
- You’ll have food aversions and cravings that are odd for you to have. And your body may also start rejecting certain foods. There will also be foods that for some reason cause you to have headaches when you’re pregnant – it’s weird. Keep track of all of these foods in a food diary and note when you experience headaches. This method of tracking will allow you to link foods with headaches, so you can avoid them.
5. Lower Your Caffeine
- Without caffeine, most people cannot function. If you consume too much caffeine, you may find that you’ll get headaches. Naturally, when a person tries to curb their caffeine consumption, they’ll start to get the dreaded caffeine headaches. The trick is to wean yourself off of caffeine slowly.
6. Get Outside
- You’re likely very tired and want nothing else than to sleep in your bed, especially when you’re in the last stage of your pregnancy. But not getting fresh air can be causing your headaches. Smells and hot places can cause you to have a headache. You can even just open the window to get a bit of fresh air in your home.
7. Avoid Bright Lights
- Some lighting can trigger headaches. If you notice that every time you go into the office, you get a headache, it may be caused by the fluorescent light in the room. Try your best to avoid these bright lights. If these lights are in your home, change them out with a soft, dim light and see if it helps.
8. Get Some Peace
- Loud noises and stress are headache triggers. Your head is already swirling, and this will make matters even worse. Try and find a room where you can get some peace and quiet – you need it. Loud noises have a way to make the pain worse and will often be the main cause behind a headache.
9. Check Your Posture
- Posture seems to go downhill as your pregnancy progresses. Women really need to start focusing on their posture when they’re in their third trimester. This is when your weight is pulling you forward and causing you to hunch over at the desk. Maintaining good posture will help you avoid stress headaches. A quick look in the mirror will tell you if you’re hunching over when walking and sitting.
3 Exercise for Headache Relief
You know what helps relieve headaches? Exercise. Staying active has a way of relieving the headaches that many pregnant women experience, and it will allow you to avoid aches and pains you’re likely feeling at this time.
The goal is to do light exercises that don’t pose a risk to your baby.
A few exercise ideas for women that are pregnant include:
Many midwives and doctors recommend that women start swimming early on in their pregnancy. A dip in the pool will be great for keeping your body moving, but you need to do more than one lap to really benefit from swimming.
The goal is to swim for 30+ minutes to really get your blood flowing.
Not only will swimming become a form of escape, but you’ll also:
- Stay in shape
- Keep your muscles strong
- Relieve future joint paints
And along with stress relief and pain relief, you’ll also find that swimming can help stop your headaches.
Yoga is tough, but it’s fairly safe, depending on the poses you’re doing. There is also such a thing as prenatal yoga, which is aimed at pregnant women. These classes will keep you flexible, strong and healthy all throughout your pregnancy.
Yoga has also been known to combat headaches.
Try to attend a beginner yoga class or go straight to a prenatal class. While hot yoga may be dangerous for a pregnant woman, many other forms of yoga will be very beneficial.
A good old walk around the neighborhood will do wonders for your headaches and mental state. Not only will walking work to keep you fit, but walking can also help relieve stress and anxiety while allowing you to get out of the house.
If you have a dog or a friend in the neighborhood, bring them along with you on your daily walk.
This is a great habit that you’ll also want to keep after you’ve given birth. Walking with your baby around the neighborhood will help you lose pregnancy weight faster, too.
Caution: Don’t Overdo It
You may feel fantastic, and before you know it, you’ll find that you want to do CrossFit or play sports. While this may be acceptable for some women, you want to remain very cautious with sports and overexertion. A soccer ball to the stomach can and does happen, and that is the last thing you want when you’re pregnant.
Exercise is great, but don’t go past your limits when you’re pregnant.
Headaches will typically go away on their own and are only temporary during pregnancy. But if you’ve followed all of the tips and advice above and have yet to find relief, it’s time to contact your physician and have a general checkup. In most cases, an over-the-counter headache reliever, such as Tylenol, will be provided to relieve your headache.