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Headaches during pregnancy

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

headacheHeadaches are common during pregnancy, especially during the first and third trimesters. They rarely signal a serious problem, but they do deserve attention.

In the first few months of pregnancy, headaches may be caused by normal changes in your hormone levels and an increase in blood volume and circulation. In the second trimester, pregnancy-related headaches may disappear as your body becomes used to the hormonal changes. Towards the end of pregnancy, headaches tend to be related more to posture and tension from carrying extra weight.

During the second and third trimesters, headaches may also be caused by a serious condition called preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy). Preeclampsia requires immediate medical attention.  Contact your health care provider immediately if your headache:
• Does not go away or recurs often
• Is sudden and very severe
• Is accompanied by blurry vision, spots in front of your eyes, sudden weight gain, pain in the upper right abdomen, and swelling in the hands or face
• Is accompanied by nausea and vomiting
• If you’ve been having any problems with high or rising blood pressure, call your health care provider even if you have a mild headache.

Some women often have tension headaches, which cause squeezing pain or a dull ache on both sides of the head or the back of the neck. The headaches may increase during pregnancy, especially if you experiences stress, fatigue, caffeine withdrawal (especially if you suddenly stop or cut down on coffee drinking or other sources of caffeine when you learn you’re pregnant), lack of sleep, dehydration (lack of fluids), or hunger or low blood sugar.

Some unlucky women may have migraine headaches for the first time in early pregnancy. These headaches cause severe, throbbing pains on one side of the head. Nausea or vomiting may also be part of the migraine experience. But many women who are prone to migraines may notice that they improve during pregnancy. Some migraine sufferers may notice no change during pregnancy or may find that their headaches become more frequent and intense.

Before taking any medications or herbal remedies, always talk to your health care provider. If you regularly suffer from migraines, ask your health care provider before taking the medications you normally used before becoming pregnant. The following tips may safely help relieve or prevent headaches during pregnancy:
• Use warm or cold compresses
• Reduce stress
• Rest and exercise
• Eat well-balanced meals
• Take care of your body
• Avoid headache triggers

While most headaches during pregnancy are harmless, some can be a sign of a more serious problem. If you have a migraine for the first time during pregnancy, or if you have a headache that feels unlike any you’ve experienced before, call your health care provider to make sure it is not a sign of more serious problems. Call your health care provider right away if your headache:
• Is sudden and explosive or includes a violent pain that awakens you from sleep
• Is accompanied by fever and stiff neck
• Becomes increasingly worse, and you have vision changes, slurred speech, drowsiness, numbness or a change in sensation or alertness
• Occurs after falling or hitting your head
• Is accompanied by nasal congestion, pain and pressure underneath your eyes, or dental pain (these may be signs of sinus infection)