Headaches During Pregnancy: What to Know

Are you worried about what a headache during pregnancy means? Check out our informative guide on common pregnancy headaches and safe treatment options.  


Ladies, let’s be real about something. Pregnancy is one of the most beautiful things that will ever happen to our bodies. But that doesn’t mean it’s all sunshine and roses. For many women, symptoms such as unusual joint pain, morning sickness, and frequent migraines are all part of pregnancy. Pregnancy hormones are typically to blame for these unpleasant bodily changes. But in some cases, there may be a serious underlying issue causing the discomfort. 


If you experience occasional headache pain during pregnancy, it’s probably nothing to worry about. But if your headaches are frequent and cause severe pain, it may be an indication of something more sinister. The key is to recognize when it’s time to talk to your doctor about your migraine symptoms so you can rule out things like high blood pressure, cerebral venous thrombosis, and preeclampsia. 


Are Migraines Common in Pregnant Women?


Some women already have problems with frequent migraines before getting pregnant and worry about how a bun in the oven will affect them. Surprisingly, for many women in this situation, pregnancy may actually relieve headaches! Between 50% and 80% of migraine sufferers have fewer headaches while pregnant. This is great news, and it speaks to the role of hormones (specifically estrogen) in minimizing pregnancy headaches. 


So if you already experience migraine attacks frequently, you may find that you don’t get any migraines during pregnancy at all! You may even be one of those rare unicorns (er, women) who feels their very best while pregnant.  


Unfortunately, not all women fall into this category of gestational bliss. Approximately 15% to 20% of women experience increased migraine pain when they’re pregnant. If you’re one of these “lucky” ones, you’re more likely to get pregnancy headaches during your first and third trimesters. They may also increase during the postpartum period (after the baby is delivered). 


What Causes Headaches in Pregnancy? 


There are several potential causes of headaches during pregnancy. Some are primary, and some are secondary. Primary headaches include any type of head pain that is simply due to the head pain itself. Primary headaches include migraines, tension headaches, and cluster headaches (often treated by triptan). 


Secondary headaches are always due to other conditions (such as sinus congestion, high blood pressure, etc.) During early pregnancy, changes in blood volume and hormone levels can lead to sinus headaches or full-blown thunderclap headaches. 


You may also experience caffeine withdrawal headaches during the first trimester as your body goes without caffeine (yes, this is a real thing!) If you want to avoid this particular migraine trigger, it’s a good idea to slowly wean yourself off caffeine if you plan on becoming pregnant. Of course, this step isn’t possible if your little bundle of joy ends up being an unplanned (but still amazing) surprise. 


Other potential causes of migraine headaches while pregnant include:


  • Lack of sleep 
  • Too much stress 
  • Poor nutrition
  • Little to no physical activity
  • Hormone-induced vision changes (including increased light sensitivity)
  • Low blood sugar
  • Dehydration
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Preeclampsia

Some of the causes listed above are quite mild, while others are indicative of serious pregnancy complications. The good news is that the most serious causes of pregnancy headaches are generally rarer. Still, it’s important to pay close attention to any headache during pregnancy, so you know when it’s time to seek emergency medical treatment. 


At What Point Should I See My Doctor?


If you have a headache disorder, you may be less likely to contact your doctor when you experience severe head pain while pregnant. But some headaches can be symptoms of serious conditions such as preeclampsia and should never be ignored. 


The following symptoms of preeclampsia and other pregnancy complications can be very serious. If you experience them, contact your doctor immediately or seek emergency medical care:


  • Blurred vision
  • Severe headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the upper-right abdomen
  • Shortness of breath
  • Intolerance to bright light
  • Urinating only small amounts at a time
  • Frequent bruising
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Fainting
  • Fever
  • Seizure

Treatment for preeclampsia depends on how far you are from your due date. If you’re close enough that the baby is viable, your doctor will likely recommend delivering as soon as possible. But suppose your baby is not fully developed and your preeclampsia is not immediately threatening your lives. In that case, your doctor may recommend that you make drastic dietary changes, drink more water, and rest on your left side, so your baby’s weight isn’t affecting blood flow by pressing down on your major blood vessels. 


In severe cases, blood pressure medication, bed rest, and supplements may be used to treat you until your baby can be safely delivered. To avoid developing preeclampsia in the first place, avoid using salt in your meals, eat healthy foods throughout pregnancy, exercise regularly, and drink at least eight glasses of water per day (while avoiding caffeinated beverages altogether). 


How Do You Treat Headaches While Pregnant? 


It’s really important to have a frank discussion with your doctor if you are taking any migraine medications for your headaches or if you’re interested in migraine treatments. If you’re not currently taking migraine medication but want to, your doctor will let you know what treatment options are available. 


If your head pain is caused by high blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe a medication to lower blood pressure. You may also be given instructions for modifying your diet and supporting healthy pressure through exercise. 


It’s essential to realize that although it may be very tempting to take regular pain meds to manage your head pain during pregnancy, such medications can harm your developing baby. Therefore, it’s especially important to avoid medications during the first trimester. Even over-the-counter pain meds such as Advil and Motrin are strongly discouraged.


But what if your head pain is debilitating and you can’t handle it anymore? Try some of these alternative treatment methods:


  • Drink more water
  • Place an ice pack on your forehead
  • Try getting a therapeutic massage
  • Exercise and stretch regularly
  • Use a heating pad for pain relief (this is also an effective treatment for menstrual migraines) 
  • Apply diluted essential oils to your forehead (such as chamomile, peppermint, and rosemary)
  • Eat healthy, balanced meals
  • Avoid foods you know trigger your head pain (such as chocolate, yogurt, alcohol, and preserved meats)
  • Take a nutritional supplement that is safe for pregnant women (such as Herbaby)

Getting sufficient rest is also important for avoiding headaches. Remember, you’re creating another little life inside of you, so go easy on yourself, Mama! 


Can Herbaby Help Me With Pregnancy Headaches?


Herbaby is a gentle product formulated to deliver the nutrients Mom and Baby need to thrive. The well-rounded formula contains essential nutrients that help boost energy levels throughout pregnancy and keep hormones balanced, so you experience fewer mild headaches. In addition, Herbaby contains omega-3 for your baby’s heart and brain health, as well as vitamins and minerals that both you and your baby need to be healthy and strong. 


Herbaby does NOT contain coloring, flavoring, artificial sweeteners, or any binders or fillers that could be harmful to you and Baby. It also doesn’t contain folic acid, which is a controversial ingredient that can cause problems in people who cannot convert folic acid to a form of folate the body can use. 


We recommend consuming the essential nutrients your body needs to stay healthy and strong if you want a happy pregnancy. Check out Mixhers resources if you’re ready to learn more about how to nourish and pamper your body during pregnancy and beyond.