Headaches in pregnancy | What You Need to Know

A headache is a fairly common symptom of pregnancy.

It is most common during the first trimester, although it can occur at any time during pregnancy. As with other symptoms, headaches in pregnancy are not a cause for concern, unless they are very intense or accompanied by visual disturbances (flickering), dizziness and vomiting, in which case a doctor should be consulted.

pregnancy headaches
pregnancy headaches

Causes of headaches in pregnancy

One of the main causes of headaches in pregnancy is the hormonal changes that a woman’s body undergoes during this period, when the levels of estrogen and progesterone, female sex hormones, increase markedly. This can lead to blood congestion and vasodilatation, which often presents itself in the form of a headache.

Another cause of this headache is tension headaches, linked to increased pregnancy anxiety and postural changes. Hypotension, a consequence of a temporary drop in blood pressure, can also cause headaches and dizziness in pregnancy.

Hypoglycemia (decrease in blood glucose and drop in blood pressure), typical of the first stage of pregnancy and which occurs especially in hot weather, is another reason that can cause headaches. In some women, stopping caffeine consumption abruptly after receiving the news that they have become pregnant can also lead to generalized malaise and headaches.

Finally, other possible causes of headaches in pregnancy are:

  • Sleep problems.
  • Generalized fatigue
  • Nasal congestion
  • Visual fatigue.
  • Stress.
  • Depressive states.
  • Dehydration states.

What are the headaches in pregnancy? Learn how to identify them.

  • Tension headache. This is the most common and is usually manifested by pressure and constant pain on both sides of the head. This type of pain usually becomes more acute during pregnancy.
  • Migraines or migraine headaches. They present as a throbbing pain, of varying intensity, on one side of the head. They manifest as headaches and dizziness and, in some cases, are accompanied by vomiting. Other symptoms associated with migraines, in the most severe cases, are visual disturbances, loss of sensation, weakness or speech difficulties. In these cases, the patient should go to the emergency room.
  • Sinus headache As its name suggests, this headache in pregnancy is related to sinusitis, i.e., with states of nasal congestion. It manifests as pressure and pain in the cheeks, forehead and around the eyes. It is directly linked to a catarrhal or flu-like condition.
  • Headaches. They are presented as sudden and intense outbreaks of pain around one eye or in the temple. Sometimes the pain is accompanied by tearing and nasal congestion. Of all the types of headaches, this is the least associated with the hormonal and circulatory changes of pregnancy.
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Pregnancy and headache: can it have any consequences for my baby?

Although headaches and headaches in pregnancy are not a medical emergency, it is advisable to consult a doctor about their presence, especially if they are also accompanied by dizziness and recurrent visual, sensory, or speech disturbances. It should be noted that these pains do not have serious consequences during pregnancy, but they cause discomfort for the mother.

On the other hand, women with migraines are more likely to suffer from preeclampsia. Therefore, whether you have had migraines before or if you begin to detect them when you become pregnant, it is important that you consult your doctor to find out what type of treatment is best for you.

How can I treat headaches during pregnancy? Some suggestions

As a general rule, the treatment for headaches in pregnancy is to take paracetamol every 8 hours, although it will depend on its intensity, so this prescription should always be made by a doctor.

There are also other methods to prevent and minimize the discomfort of headaches that do not include medication and that can be very effective. Below is a list of some of them:

  • Watch what you eat. Food plays a very important role in reducing headache pain. For example, there are foods such as chocolate, nuts, cured cheese, smoked foods, and some pickled foods that increase headaches.
  • Rest. Often, headaches in pregnancy can be minimized by resting. It is advisable to lie down in bed in a dark room, leaning the body on the left side. It is also advisable to avoid loud noises and flickering lights.
  • Massage the forehead and temples. One of the most efficient ways to reduce headaches during pregnancy is to place cold clothes on the forehead and massage the area between the eyebrows and temples, where the discomfort usually originates, with light compressions held with the index fingers.
  • Exercise and try to relax. Headaches, especially migraines, appear less frequently in people who exercise continuously. Postural hygiene exercises, as well as some relaxation techniques (such as yoga or meditation), can also help to reduce pain.
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Finally, if the headache is accompanied by dizziness due to hypoglycemia or hypotension, it is advisable to:

  • A pregnant woman should take sweet food when she feels dizzy.
  • When getting up, avoid sudden movements.
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