Headaches are a common symptom during pregnancy, usually starting in the first trimester. And if you’ve rarely experienced headaches prior, you may be at a loss wondering how to get rid of them. Since there are many common headache medications to avoid while pregnant, you will want to consider other methods of easing the pain.
What causes headaches?
During pregnancy, specifically your first trimester, your blood volume and hormones increase. While going through these changes, headaches may increase1. They may increase in intensity, frequency, or both. Unfortunately, these headaches are easily aggravated by many factors, from stress to your eating habits. Due to this, it is important to make a lifestyle change if necessary. If you are someone who suffers from headaches normally, you may find that the frequency of your headaches actually decreases. However, some women also report that their headaches did, in fact, worsen1.
Besides hormone and blood changes, these headaches may be caused by:
- Low blood sugar
- Lack of sleep
- Stress, and/or
Here are 6 ways that can potentially ease your headaches while pregnant.
1- Follow a regular sleep schedule
The best way to ease headaches is to try to avoid them in the first place. Implementing a regular sleep schedule is one way to keep headaches at bay. A lack of sleep is a major contributor to headaches during pregnancy2. Unfortunately, sleep can be tricky during pregnancy. Especially as you get further along, you are often uncomfortable. However, even if you can’t fall asleep right when you get into bed, setting up a schedule will help your body relax and prepare for sleep.
If you find it hard to relax before bed, try some relaxation techniques before you get under the covers. Here are some options:
- Get a massage from your partner
- Try deep breathings
- Listen to calming music or sounds
The more relaxed you are, the better you will sleep. The better you sleep, the better the possibility of avoiding headaches.
2- Eat and Exercise Regularly
Your doctor may suggest you eat regularly to avoid nausea commonly known as morning sickness. Hunger often leads to a headache. Make sure to eat healthy meals and have healthy snacks on hand if you feel a headache coming on. Drinking plenty of fluids is also an important part of eating regularly2.
Regular exercise during pregnancy has many benefits. Regular, moderate exercise can help
- relieve stress,
- promote healthy weight gain,
- prepare your body for labor, and
- ward off headaches.
Since exercise can help reduce stress and even improve posture, it can help reduce headache pain and regularity.
3- Keep a headache journal
As mentioned before, the best way to help your headaches is to try and prevent them. This is easier done when you know what triggers your headaches. Certain foods can trigger headaches. Some of the common food triggers are
- Alcohol (always avoid during pregnancy)
- Aged cheese
- Bread with fresh yeast
- Preserved meats, and
- Sour cream1.
However, these foods may not cause headaches for you. You may have different triggers altogether. In order to catch these triggers, keep a food journal. You can either keep a food journal daily or just track the food you eat when you get a headache.
4- Cool Compress
If you are suffering from a tension headache, a cold compress may help ease the pain. To try and release the tension, place a cool compress at the base of your neck3. However, if you have a sinus headache, hold warm compress to your eyes and nose3.
Headaches are often caused by poor posture, which is common during pregnancy. A cool compress can help relieve the resulting tension that builds up.
5- A warm bath
A warm bath or shower can also help release tension and help your body relax. Again, headaches are aggravated by tension and stress. The more relaxed you can be during pregnancy, the better you can deal with headaches. A warm bath can help you relieve stress. Taking a warm bath before bed can also help you relax, helping you sleep better.
Remember, avoid hot tubs or even hot baths while you are pregnant. If you do take a bath, make sure the water is not too hot. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about taking a bath while pregnant. The same goes for hot showers; you do not want to overheat while pregnant, so ask your doctor about what is safe.
6- (Safe) Medication
When it comes to headache medication while pregnant, you don’t have a lot of options. Most healthcare providers will recommend taking Tylenol, as acetaminophen is generally recognized as safe during pregnancy. Your physician will most likely tell you to stay away from N-SAID pain relievers such as ibuprofen, Aleve, and Aspirin3.
As always, talk to your doctor before taking any medication. And use medication sparingly. You may want to consider trying natural methods before taking medication.
1- Headaches During Pregnancy: Causes and Treatment. American Pregnancy Association. http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/headaches-and-pregnancy/. Published March 14, 2017. Accessed April 26, 2017.
2- Headaches during pregnancy: What’s the best treatment? Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/expert-answers/headaches-during-pregnancy/faq-20058265. Published August 11, 2015. Accessed April 26, 2017.
3- Gizer, Jennifer. Safe Tips to Treat Headaches During Pregnancy. Parents. http://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-body/aches-pains/pregnancy-headaches/. Published July 28, 2015. Accessed April 26, 2017.