Most headaches in pregnancy are mild and primary headaches (the headache pain which happens by itself). It is not a sign or symptom of an underlying disorder or a complication during the pregnancy.
Primary headaches include:
- Tension headache
- Migraine attack
- Cluster headache
About 26 % of headaches during pregnancy are “tension headaches”. The female should tell her doctor if she has chronic headaches or migraines in pregnancy or if she has a history of migraines.
Some females with a history of migraines get just a few migraine attacks during pregnancy. Migraines have also been linked to complications that happen later in the pregnancy or after childbirth.
On the other hand, secondary headaches are quite different from primary headaches. Secondary headaches are caused due to a complication in the pregnancy, like high blood pressure and are often a sign of an underlying complication, condition or disorder in pregnancy.
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Common symptoms of headaches during pregnancy
Pain caused by headaches in pregnancy can vary from female to female. However, pregnancy headaches can be of the following types
- Dull ache
- Throbbing or pulsating pain
- Severe headache pain (in one or both sides)
- Sharp pain in one or both eyes
Migraine pain in pregnancy can also include:
- Blind spots
- Seeing lines or flashes of light instead of clear vision
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Trimester Wise Causes of Headaches during pregnancy
Pregnancy Headaches in the First trimester
Pregnancy headaches are pretty common in the first trimester. This happens as the female’s body undergoes several changes and adapting to the pregnancy. The following changes can trigger a headache in pregnancy-
- Hormonal changes
- Higher blood volume
- Weight loss or gain
Common causes of pregnancy headache pain in the first trimester may also include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Insomnia or lack of sleep
- Caffeine withdrawal
- Poor nutrition
- Low blood sugar levels
- Physically inactive lifestyle
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurred vision
Some foods may also cause pregnancy headaches. Common foods that cause pregnancy headaches in some females include:
- Dairy products
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Pregnancy Headaches in Second and Third Trimester
Headaches during the second and third trimester can have different causes, including:
- Weight gain
- Lack of sleep
- Muscle strain
- Abdominal tightness or pain
- High blood pressure
High blood pressure in Pregnancy
Headaches during the second or third trimester of pregnancy can be a sign that the female has high blood pressure. About 6 to 8 % of pregnant females between the age of 20 to 44 in the US have high blood pressure.
As per the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), high blood pressure is a terrible condition in pregnancy. But, the condition is treatable and delayed treatment can cause serious complications for the mother and the fetus. It is common after week 20 of the pregnancy.
If the female is pregnant, high blood pressure can increase the risk of:
- Low oxygen flow to the developing fetus
- Preterm delivery (before 37 weeks of pregnancy)
- Placental abruption
- Low baby birth weight
Treatment for headache during pregnancy
Consult your doctor before taking any regular headache medication during your pregnancy. It is strictly advised to not take aspirin and ibuprofen in pregnancy.
The doctor can recommend other home remedies to treat the headache in pregnancy such as:
- Drink plenty of water
- Take rest
- Use an ice pack or a heating pad
- Get a head massage
- Do some light exercise or stretching
When to visit your doctor?
The female should visit the doctor in case she has severe headache pain during her pregnancy. If you have one or more of the following conditions, get immediate medical attention-
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Severe pain
- Headache lasting more than a few hours
- Frequent headache pain
Headache during pregnancy is common. The female may have tension headaches during the first trimester of pregnancy, which is common because of the various changes that the female is going through in a short period.
Consult your doctor in case you have headaches at any time in the pregnancy. Speak to your doctor if you have any personal or family history of migraine, pregnancy headaches, high blood pressure, seizures or diabetes. The doctor can give the most effective, accurate and safe treatment option for you.
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