During pregnancy your body goes through lots of changes. Sometimes these changes can cause discomfort, some of which can be painful. Headaches are one example. They’re often caused by changes in hormones or by stress. They also can be caused by body tension from the extra weight you carry during pregnancy. Although headaches are common during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester, some women have more intense headaches called migraine headaches.
What is a migraine headache?
A migraine headache is an intense headache on one or both sides of the head. In addition to pain, migraine headaches can cause nausea (feeling sick to your stomach) and vomiting. About 29.5 million Americans have migraines, and most (3 out of 4) are women.
Migraine headaches and pregnancy
Although some women who have migraine headaches may notice that their headaches improve during pregnancy, some may notice no change. And some may have an increase in migraine symptoms during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. If you have a migraine for the first time during pregnancy, or if you have a headache that feels different from headaches you usually have, call your health care provider.
Migraine treatments during pregnancy
If you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant and have migraine headaches, talk to your health care provider about treatment options and medicines. Some medicines aren’t safe to take during pregnancy because they can harm your baby. This includes some over-the-counter medicines and herbal products. If you already take medicine for migraine headaches, ask your provider if it’s safe to take during pregnancy.
Here’s what you can do to help relieve or prevent headaches, including migraine headaches, during pregnancy:
- Take care of your body. Get a good night’s sleep, and do something active every day.
- Eat healthy foods and make sure to drink plenty of water. If certain foods cause you to have headaches, don’t eat those foods.
- Relaxation techniques, like deep breathing, yoga and massage for pregnant women, can be helpful.
Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia
Sometimes headaches during pregnancy are a warning sign of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a serious blood pressure condition that can happen after the 20th week of pregnancy or after giving birth. It’s when a woman has high blood pressure and signs that some of her organs, like her kidneys and liver, may not be working properly. Preeclampsia needs immediate medical attention.
Call your health care provider or go to a hospital emergency room if you have any of these signs or symptoms of preeclampsia:
- A headache that’s severe or doesn’t go away
- Changes in your vision, like blurriness, flashing lights, seeing sports or being sensitive to light
- High blood pressure
- Nausea, vomiting or dizziness
- Pain in the upper right belly area or shoulder
- Sudden weight gain (2 to 5 pounds in a week)
- Swelling in the legs, hand or face
- Trouble breathing