Pregnancy Headaches

A common and unpleasant side effect of pregnancy can be frequent headaches, especially in the first trimester.  Experts contribute pregnancy headaches due to the rapid change in hormones early in pregnancy.  In addition, there may be environmental factors that increase your likelihood of headaches.  Most of the time headaches are not a serious concern, but simply an unpleasant symptom.  However, if you are in your second or third trimester and are experiencing significant headaches, it could be a sign of preeclampsia, so you should see your physician promptly. 

To manage headaches, pregnant women are allowed to take acetaminophen (Tylenol).  You should not take aspirin or ibuprofen while pregnant.  Certain migraine medicines are also to be avoided while pregnant due to the possible risk to the developing baby.  So, how do you ease headache pain during pregnancy?

  • Reduce stress: stress contributes to headaches, so if you can reduce the stress in your life, then you will likely reduce the frequency of headaches.  Try journaling, meditating, taking a warm bath, going to a religious ceremony or decreasing the amount of commitments in your life.
  • Stay hydrated and eat regularly: drastic changes in blood sugar levels can bring on headaches.  Be sure that you are eating small regular meals and that you are getting adequate hydration.
  • Get some exercise: getting appropriate exercise has been shown to reduce frequency of headaches and migraines.  Start slowly and avoid high intensity workouts, if you are not used to doing them.  Yoga is a great place to start.
  • Get a massage:  tension headaches are associated with muscle tension in the muscles of the neck and upper back.  Get a massage to reduce muscle tension and ease the pain of a tension headache.
  • Get plenty of rest:  try to get enough sleep, 7-8 hours each night.  Headaches are associated with fatigue, so make rest a top priority.