Pregnancy brings with it the promise of a new baby and all of the attendant excitement.
But pregnancy can also bring new health issues or exacerbate old ones. One of the most bothersome side effects of pregnancy can be headaches.
Why do you get pregnancy headaches?
A number of things are happening in your body and your life that could be causing your pregnancy headache.
If you are already prone to tension headaches or migraines, your state of being pregnant will not improve on that. For many women, pregnancy (particularly an unplanned one), may trigger more concerns or anxiety, which is perfectly understandable. If your family or economic situation is stressful, this could also be leading to pregnancy headaches.
But the major cause of pregnancy headaches is hormonal changes in your body. These hormones are the same things that cause nausea. There is nothing you can do about hormonal changes.
Know your personal headache triggers. If you already know what caused you to get headaches pre-pregnancy, avoid those triggers now that you are pregnant. Some women respond poorly to low blood sugar and need to eat small meals more often; other women are suddenly sideswiped with overwhelming fatigue that brings on headaches and need to curtail their activities and take time for occasional naps or else catch up on the weekends. Other women find that certain foods are headache-inducing.
If you are not sure what could be contributing to your headaches, keep a headache diary and note the time and date of your headache as well as what you ate and did during the 6-12 hours prior to the headache. Bring the diary with you to your doctor and try to find the patterns of pain.
Caffeine withdrawal can also cause headaches. If you are giving up caffeine, do so slowly over two weeks’ time, as an immediate cold turkey can bring on headaches.
Treating your pregnancy headache:
Just popping a pill for headache is not so simple during pregnancy. On the list of drugs to avoid are aspirin, naproxen, ibuprofen as well as Imitrex.
Doctors used to regularly recommend acetaminophen (Tylenol) to their pregnant patients You should be aware of two recent studies that implicate acetaminophen in developmental delays and increased incidence of ADHD among children whose mothers took it.
Other remedies can be effective. Some of these include:
- Meditation and relaxation
- Slow stretching
- Warm baths with the lights off (for migraine sufferers)
- Cold compresses behind the neck
- Warm compresses over the nose and eyes (for sinus headache sufferers)
- Increasing water consumption
- Massage, acupuncture and acupressure
- Including physical activity, especially outside walks
- Getting adequate rest
- Monitor your posture to be sure it is not contributing to headaches.
Pregnancy is a complicated time for your body. Please consult with your health care provider regarding all aspects of your pregnancy.