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Headaches During Pregnancy: What To Do & How To Prevent It

Bogged down by headaches during pregnancy? Here is everything you need to know about it so you can manage it properly.

Pregnancy headaches seem ten times worse than the usual headaches you get before you got pregnant, right? During the first trimester, rising estrogen levels are usually the main cause of headaches during pregnancy. But the increase in the amount of blood your body is producing can also be the reason behind early pregnancy headaches.

By the second or third trimester, hormones aren’t the primary culprit anymore. From the extra weight you’ve put on to sleep deprivation, all these may trigger headaches. While the causes aren’t always clear and can vary from one pregnant mum to another, it’s important to be informed about what kind of headache you’re dealing with and what to do when a debilitating headache strikes!

The Different Types of Headaches During Pregnancy

Headaches during pregnancy

According to Healthline, primary headaches are what most moms experience during pregnancy. What exactly is a primary headache? Stanford Health Care explains it this way: it’s when the headache itself is the issue. This means your headache is not a symptom of an underlying medical condition such as a sinus infection, which would then make it a secondary headache.

Did you know that there are actually four types of primary headaches? These are migraine headache, tension headache, cluster headache, and hypnic headache. Of these four, scientific research published in 2017 revealed that migraine and tension headaches are the most common headaches affecting pregnant women.

Migraine headache

Identified by moderate to severe pain on one side of the head, this type of headache typically has a pulsing sensation. This headache also causes nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. A migraine headache can last anywhere from hours to days. This affects 1 in every 5 women.

If you are pregnant and suffering from migraine attacks, you can check with a health care professional on pregnancy-safe medications. However, if you prefer to take a more natural approach, try recovering in a dim, quiet room. You can also place a cold compress on your forehead for 15 minutes at a time.

Tension headache

In contrast to a migraine which is felt on one side of the head, a tension headache is felt around the back of the head or behind your eyes. It happens when the muscles on the neck and scalp tense up. Those who suffer from it describe it as having a tight band around your forehead.

To find some relief from a tension headache, you can consider placing a warm or cold compress (whichever you prefer, moms) on your head. As this type of headache is associated with tense muscles, a warm shower may be helpful in easing your muscles.

Cluster headache

Although cluster headaches are more common in men, this excruciatingly painful headache can also be experienced by some pregnant moms. This type of headache is felt on one side of the head, particularly around the eye. In contrast to a migraine that manifests like a throbbing and pulsing sensation, cluster headaches carry a burning sensation. A cluster headache attack can last up to 3 hours.

Given the severity of the pain this headache brings, there are quite a number of medications available for cluster headache relief. However, not all of them are 100% safe during pregnancy. As such, oxygen therapy (breathing oxygen through a mask) is the safest treatment option for pregnant moms.

Hypnic headache

This type of headache is quite rare as it mainly affects post-menopausal women. What makes it truly rare is the fact that the pain is only felt at night and lasts no more than 1 hour.

The most common recommendation to alleviate hypnic headache is to take caffeine before bed. Medications are also available if a cup of coffee doesn’t do the trick.

Tips to Prevent Headaches During Pregnancy

Tips to prevent headaches during pregnancy

Not all headaches during pregnancy can be completely prevented. However, there are some things that you can do or change in your lifestyle to better manage them. Here are our tips to helping prevent pregnancy headaches!

  • Avoid headache triggers. Migraines, for instance, are usually triggered by caffeine and alcohol intake, foods like chocolate and citrus fruits, and smell. According to the American Migraine Foundation, 70% of migraine headaches are caused by stress.
  • If you’re smoking, quit. Even e-cigarettes are dangerous to pregnant women, as they can cause nicotine poisoning—with headaches being one of its symptoms.
  • Learn how to manage stress. These can be anything from talking to a friend or winding down with a good book.
  • Practice relaxation techniques. You can use Mama’s Choice Relaxing Massage Oil for aromatherapy or perhaps a massage using Mama’s Choice Herbal Oil.
  • Follow a regular sleep schedule. Sleep deprivation can lead to fatigue, which is a common trigger in most headaches.
  • Eat a healthy diet. On top of eating lots of fruits and vegetables you need in your pregnancy, it’s important to stay hydrated.

When Should You Worry About Headaches During Pregnancy?

Headaches during pregnancy

Headaches are fairly common in pregnancy, especially during the first and third trimesters. However, it may be time to seek medical advice when you feel that your headache just isn’t going away no matter what you do.

Experts recommend that you immediately inform your doctor if you experience frequent headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, fainting or fever.

You need to pay extra attention if you’re in your second and third trimesters, too. This is because severe headaches accompanied by changes in vision, nausea, and more can also be due to preeclampsia—a pregnancy complication which if left untreated can be fatal both to moms and babies.

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Hanna of Mama's Choice

A mama of one energetic toddler, Hanna likes to read books, watch baking shows, and play video games when her little one is asleep.

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