Headaches during pregnancy occur for various reasons. The most common being the hormonal changes, dietary changes, exhaustion, dehydration and blood sugar level. Headaches in pregnancy are annoying but not a major concern unless unbearable. In this article, we will look into some of the causes and remedies for headaches during pregnancy.
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Reasons For Headaches During Pregnancy
Headaches during pregnancy according to midwives are not a reason to worry. It usually subsides during the course of your pregnancy. So what causes a headache during pregnancy? There are various reasons and remedies for these headaches. Some of them are:
The rising hormonal level, progesterone causes headaches to many of us in the first trimester. The progesterone relaxes the uterus and blood vessel of neck and head. The increased blood flow can cause a headache.
Doctors and midwives suggest some simple headache remedies while pregnant like a gentle massage around head, neck and shoulder area. A cool compress on the pain area or the back of your neck. You can practice deep and focused breathing as in yoga or aromatherapy with a safe scent and a trained practitioner. These headaches caused by an increase in hormone levels should last up to 20 weeks or the end of the first trimester and beginning of second trimester
Increase blood volume
When you are pregnant the blood volume increases. There is an increase in blood plasma from 40-50% and red blood cells mass increases from 20- 30%. Salt and protein support your increased blood volume. During pregnancy, you should not restrict your salt intake unless advised by the doctor or your intake of fast food, package or process food is high. Salt causes the body to retain fluid in blood stream for placental perfusion. So if salt is restricted the normal expansion during this period is restricted thus affecting the growing placenta. So use high mineral salt for your wholesome food instead of restricting your intake.
During pregnancy, your protein intake increases to 80gm per day. But if you are suffering from high blood pressure, swelling, a headache consult your doctor and you can increase to 100-200gm per day. When you are pregnant the protein is used to make albumin to help increase blood volume. It creates an osmotic pressure pulling extra fluid out of your tissue and into blood circulating in your blood vessel. This can be done only from the protein that you eat during pregnancy. This type of headache is experienced only in the first and third trimester.
The increase in blood volume accompanied by hormonal changes, morning sickness, and vomiting causes an imbalance in the blood sugar level. This may cause a headache or a migraine in some of the expecting mothers. It is a good idea to include healthy grains, fats, protein and carbohydrates from starchy veggies and fruits. These types of headaches are common throughout the pregnancy.
A change in your eating patterns like cutting down your coffee or smoking may trigger the headaches. Caffeine is very addictive so completely putting off from your diet may cause a severe headache. A small amount of caffeine during pregnancy is considered safe. If you find your headache is due to caffeine, it is advisable to slowly drop your caffeine intake instead of at once. You can instead opt for a good quality dark chocolate drink.
Sinus pressure and nasal congestion
An increase in sinus pressure or congestion may cause a headache. It is characterized by pain behind cheekbone and there may be strain around the eye and head. Midwives advise for sinus congestion is taking a steam bath or natural anti-histamines. Allergens can even inflame and irritate the tissue of sinus area causing increase sinus pressure or a terrible headache or even worse a migraine. For such allergies increase your vitamin C intake especially citrus fruits, strawberries, and organic bell peppers. These type of headache may trouble you through the entire pregnancy with varying degree.
Pregnancy demands increase intake of water. But with many symptoms like nausea, vomiting, morning sickness, food dislike and increase blood volume it is a problem to stay hydrated. This increased water is required for forming the placenta and amniotic sac. Plus, the baby is dependent on it for his growth.
This type of a headache while pregnancy is more likely to occur at the base of your skull and the region around the nape of your neck. Doctors suggest high water content fruits like grapes, melons including electrolyte beverages like coconut water. Small frequent sips of water with lemon juice, cucumber or a pinch of sea salt is great. Small frequent meals or snacks is advisable instead of one large. These headaches in pregnancy can be avoided by simply staying hydrated. Increase your fluid intake when working outdoors in hot conditions.
Muscle ache and fatigue
During pregnancy, your body is in the process of creating a life. It is sending nutrients, giving many hormones and growing an organ. So you are carrying an extra weight on yourself. This makes you feel tired and cause headache. Midwives suggest extra sleep whenever possible is the best solution provided you keep yourself hydrated. This can be accompanied by a warm bath and a prenatal massage. Yoga and prenatal exercise if approved by your doctor is also advisable.
It is important during your pregnancy to listen to your body needs and adjust your activity accordingly together with nutritious food.
Are Headaches Common During Pregnancy
Headaches in pregnancy are not quite as common as other symptoms like nausea, vomiting or morning sickness. Having said that it varies from individuals. Headaches are usually due to various above reasons. They are more usual in the first trimester and subside by 2nd or 3rd trimester. But some expecting moms might still struggle with headaches while pregnant.
But if you have severe headaches during pregnancy it is best to ask for medical assistance. In some case, it might be pre-eclampsia or cerebral clotting of blood. This is characterized by severe pain in front of the head, flashing lights, sudden swelling in ankles, fingers and sickening.
Common Types Of Headaches During Pregnancy
Some common types of headaches in pregnancy which are experienced by many of us are:
The most common type and experienced usually by many of us during pregnancy. The main reasons are stress, depression, anxiety, lack of sleep, alcohol consumption, missed meal, stress related to work. A headache causes tightening of muscles in the neck, jaw, shoulder, and scalp. There is tight continuous and squeezing pain on both sides of the head or at the back of the neck.
They are not frequent headaches during pregnancy. It is usually caused by respiratory infection or nasal congestion. The throbbing pain is felt around the forehead, cheeks and eye region.
It is rare during pregnancy. Cluster headaches are characterized as occurring at the same time every day and lasting from few hours to weeks or months. It is caused by malfunction of hypothalamus hormone causing enlargement of carotid arteries thus putting pressure on the trigeninal nerve and cause pain.
The most dreaded of all headaches. The probable cause of a migraine during pregnancy is hormonal changes, dehydration, lack of sleep and nausea. This pain is characterized by one- side pain on the head. A headache aggravates with physical activity and lasts from about 4 to 72 hours. It is sensitive to light and noise and is accompanied by nausea and vomiting in pregnancy.
Natural Remedies For Headaches During Pregnancy
Of the various headache remedies while pregnant home remedies stand as the best way of dealing. Additionally, they are safe and have no side effects on your baby. It is a good idea to consult your doctor or midwife before including in your diet or practising it as in case of yoga.
A relaxing massage on neck, back and shoulder can relieve even migraine. A massage with medicated oil helps release tension to a certain extent. A study showed that 6 weeks massage can reduce the frequency of a migraine. But do ensure that massage is done by a professional masseuse or the one having experienced with pregnant women.
Take warm or cold bath
Cold shower provides temporary relief from headache. Splashing cold water on your face can relieve tension headaches in early pregnancy. A warm shower with Epsom salt for 15 minutes is also helpful.
The age-old method of inhaling steam from hot water pan relieves congestion clearing sinus and reliefs you from headache. Nasal decongestant by the advice of your doctor can also be used.
Keep yourself hydrated
Water keeps your body energized ensuring proper circulation of nutrients and hormones. Drink at least 8 ounces of water every day to keep away from severe headache during pregnancy.
Choose the right garments
Breast ligament stretches to support your growing breast during pregnancy. This increases the pressure on your neck and back causing daily headache while pregnant. It is advisable to check the size.
Take a nap, practice yoga
Being sleep deficient to full fill your deadlines is a complete no during pregnancy. In fact, lack of sleep can cause headache or migraine too. So keep yourself first and rest. After consulting a doctor or trained yoga practitioner you can perform some of the yoga asanas. It helps in reducing stress and ensures a healthy delivery.
Use hot or cold compress
Tension headache is treated using the hot compress. As the blood vessels shrink causing low blood circulation resulting in headache. Hot compress expands the blood vessels, increasing the blood flow to brain thus relieving the pain. The hot compress can be applied to the forehead or base of neck for maximum relief for headache treatment during pregnancy.
Migraine during pregnancy is usually caused by expanded blood vessels of the head. The cold compress helps in tightening of blood vessels and shrink the cells. This helps in relieving the pain.
Omega 3 oil and lemon juice
Healthy oils like Omega 3 oil reduce inflammation, duration, and intensity of headache. It is found in fatty fish like salmon, olive oil and canola oil.
Lemon juice has many advantages like fighting headache, improving blood circulation, flushing out toxins and also works as an antioxidant, reduces stomach cramp, improves immunity.
Other Complementary Therapies For Headaches During pregnancy
Acupressure and acupuncture- The ancient art of relieving pain by stimulating the various points like your forehead, temple, face, neck, hand, foot regions. Acupuncture is beneficial for tension headaches and migraines during pregnancy.
Using peppermint or lavender oil can help ease a headache. Peppermint oil has a cooling effect on skin and reduces a tension-related headache. Gently massage these oils on the forehead to ease your headaches in pregnancy.
Helpful for treating moderate headache. Consult a registered, experienced homoeopathy doctor.
This technique measures physiological activities happening in your body. An electrode is placed on your neck region or forehead for measuring muscle tension. As tension increases the instruments monitor increase its noise.
It measures brainwave, evaluates your behaviour at that time, giving you information and help you understand the reason of headache. Thus helping you to manage headache during pregnancy.
It uses the spinal manipulation in treating your headache. It involves realignment of cervical vertebrae. Many nerves pass through the upper cervical region. So any changes cause of tension, cluster headache or a migraine can be easily detected.
A headache due to neck or shoulder pain can be treated by osteopathic. It works on tension points of your body to help realign your bones, muscles, and joints.
This is for minor headaches and should be done by the qualified therapist. It stimulates the points on your feet, ears, and hands with a gentle massage.
Medication For Headaches During Pregnancy
There is no rule binding as to the use of medicines or painkillers during pregnancy. But before popping any medicine for headache remedies during pregnancy it is advisable to consult your doctor.
Tension headaches can be relieved by paracetamol and codeine. But nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory agents should not be taken from the third trimester.
Drugs for migraine or sinus headaches during pregnancy can be 1000mg of paracetamol (acetaminophen -Tylenol).
Acetylsalicylic acids like Aspirin and ibuprofen can be taken in small dosage. But it is advisable to avoid them in the last trimester.
Oxygen therapy is advised for severe cluster headaches. In this, the patient is subjected to a high flow of oxygen.
Preventing Headache During Pregnancy
As preventing those annoying headaches is always better. Keeping vigil on various circumstances will go a long way in keeping these headaches during pregnancy away. Some other headache treatments during pregnancy are:
Low blood sugar level can cause a headache during pregnancy. Have small meals more often instead of large meals. Snacks such as almonds, dried apricots are nutritious options. Try to incorporate a healthy diet. Food containing preservatives (monosodium glutamate) and nitrates should be avoided. The main aim is not to let your tummy empty. Drink at least 1.5 litres of water. Try reducing your caffeine level go for fruit teas or caffeine free natural teas. Green tea or black tea is not recommended.
Practise relaxing techniques such as deep breathing as in yoga after consulting your doctor. Sleep minimizes headaches and migraine. Sleep early and well.
Try not to slouch, bend or slump while working for a long time. Your pillows should not be too high as it may cause pain in your neck triggering a headache. Your mattress should not be too old cause it may affect your back. The position of your chair, car seat, and even the computer screen should encourage good posture.
To get over stress-related headaches, go to walk, meditate, attend prenatal exercise or yoga classes, perform breathing exercises. Avoid going to hot places and strong odour. Breathe in fresh air and go for loose-fitting breathable clothes.
Avoid noisy areas and heavy lightings
Noisy areas can cause headaches and so does fluorescent lighting.
When To Seek Medical Help For Headache During Pregnancy
According to midwives a headache during pregnancy is usually in the first trimester, third trimester and sometimes late pregnancy. It is usually not a cause of concern unless in following situations:
‣ Fever or stiffness in the neck accompanied by a headache
‣ Nasal congestion, pain, and pressure under your eyes.
‣ Headache after reading or looking at a computer screen.
‣ Headache with dental pain, probably infection in your sinus.
‣ Fall or hit on your head.
‣ Sharp pain in the upper abdominal area with gain or swelling of face and hand, visual changes and nausea.
‣ Severe headache like never before.