One of the not so pleasant things about pregnancy is the fact of having to deal with certain minor complications now and then. And one such complication that can literally leave you in tears is the pregnancy headache that usually affects many women in the first trimester of their pregnancy.
Common Causes for Headaches during Pregnancy
The first and major cause for frequent headaches during pregnancy can be attributed to the increase in hormone levels during this time. The sudden surge of hormones in turn leads to an increase in blood circulation to all parts of the body, including the head. This sudden change can cause headaches during pregnancy.
Other common causes for pregnancy headaches include factors like poor posture, stress (both physical and emotional), sinus, lack of proper sleep, fatigue, vision alterations, low blood sugar, high blood pressure (called preeclampsia), dehydration, sudden hunger pangs, overheating or caffeine withdrawal etc.
Often, women who experience regular migraines before getting pregnant tend to experience less of the same after conceiving. For others, however, women who get frequent migraines before pregnancy can experience an increase in the frequency and intensity of these migraines after conceiving. In any case, pregnancy headaches need to be dealt with immediately and should be reported to a doctor if the pain and frequency increase.
Dealing with Pregnancy Headaches the Right Way
Before dealing with a pregnancy headache, you need to ascertain the reason as to why it occurred in the first place. That alone can help you take care of it in a better way.
Headaches Caused by Fatigue
Pregnancy can be a tiring term for a new mother who needs to learn to cope with carrying the weight of her unborn child. This can cause a toll on the body, causing extreme fatigue which in turn can cause headaches.
The best way to cope with headaches that are caused due to fatigue would be to get ample amounts of rest during the first few weeks of pregnancy itself. The first and third trimesters are the best stages to give your body the rest that it needs to cope with the pregnancy later on. So take plenty of rest during this period to avoid fatigue and the ensuing headache later on during the pregnancy.
Headaches Caused by Cold, Flu, Sinus
Cold, flu, nose blockages and sinus infections are synonymous with headaches. And if you happen to catch cold during pregnancy, you would most surely end up with one big headache, trust me!
The best way to get rid of headaches caused by colds and flu would be to get rid of the mucus from your body. And for that you need to drink plenty of water (preferably warm). Try inhaling steam or opt for a nasal decongestant (after consulting with your doctor that is) to remove blockages in the nose and mouth. Your doctor may also check for a possible sinus infection and prescribe necessary medication for the same.
Headaches Caused by Stress/Tension
Stress is a major contributor of headaches whether you are pregnant or not. Excess physical and emotional stress/tension can take a toll on your body and your pregnancy. Not to forget mentioning the countless numbers of headaches it would cause you.
While yoga, meditation classes, and breathing exercises can reduce stress and prevent headaches, you can opt for other remedies to take care of existing headaches by placing an ice pack on the back of your neck, lying down in a dark room, or closing your eyes and putting your feet up for a good couple of minutes.
Headaches Caused by Low Blood Sugar
Skipping meals or eating less during pregnancy can cause low blood sugar which in turn can trigger nasty headaches. Eating a lot of unhealthy sweets can also cause sudden drops in the blood sugar levels and cause headaches in the process.
Never skip your meals during pregnancy and always have something nutritious like a granola bar or whole grain crackers in hand to handle sudden hunger pangs. Eat healthy portions of food instead of just picking at it. Keep a check on the amount of sweets you consume on a daily basis as well.
Headaches Caused by Caffeine Withdrawal
If you start experiencing frequent headaches as soon as you stop consuming your regular dose of caffeine (drinking coffee i.e.), then chances are your pregnant body is reacting to the sudden change.
Make it a point to gradually withdraw from coffee and other caffeinated drinks, especially if you were addicted to them before pregnancy. So start by reducing the number of cups you drink on a daily basis before stopping it completely. This would keep you free from the headaches that accompany the withdrawal.
Headaches Caused by Loud Noises, Bright Lights, Strong Odors and Stuffy Surroundings
If you seem to experience headaches due to any of these factors, then here is what you need to do. Move out of cramped, stuffy places and try getting some fresh air whenever you feel a headache on its way. If you work in a closed office, walk outside at regular intervals to get some air. Open a window for some fresh air if possible.
Try moving away from strong odors or smoke filled areas. Otherwise cover your mouth with a cloth until the odor (or smoke) passes away. Move to a quieter area of your home/office to avoid loud noises. Avoid visiting malls, movie theaters and other venues which could be extra noisy.
Headaches Caused by Certain Foods
Your body would be extra sensitive during pregnancy. As such it would react adversely to certain foods that you eat and trigger intense headaches in the process. If so, then the best way to prevent the headaches would be to avoid these foods completely until after your pregnancy.
Accordingly, some of the potential triggers you need to watch out for include chocolates, peanuts, preserved meats, yogurt, cheese (aged), breads (containing fresh yeast), alcohol and sour cream etc.
Headaches Caused by Bad Posture
Pregnancy can be tiring and can cause you to adopt a different posture to accommodate the growing weight. While some ladies tend to slump or slouch, others tend to bend over too much while doing work.
These postures may make you comfortable for the moment. However, remaining in the same posture for long periods can potentially cause stress on the body and resultant migraines. Make it a point to sit/stand straight at all times and relax (slump/slouch) only for short intervals of time.
Taking Medications for Pregnancy Headaches
If your headache is persistent even after trying the remedies mentioned above, you would need to take it to the next step; medication.
You can opt for certain pain relief medications to take care of incessant pregnancy headaches. Check with your health provider for the best option. Do not take medications like aspirin or ibuprofen that are generally advised against during pregnancies. However, acetaminophen is a medication that you can take under medical guidance for pregnancy headaches.
Consulting a Doctor
Even though this would be the last course of action for incessant pregnancy headaches, it is also considered as the best thing to do in cases where the headaches increase in intensity and persistence, where the headaches are different than the ones you normally get and where the headaches are followed by vision problems (blurry vision), abdominal pain, sudden weight gain or swelling of the face and hands etc.