When youâ€™re expecting, you might be prepared for well-known pregnancy side effects, such as cravings and morning sickness. However, what you might not expect are headaches. If you suffer from these pains, youâ€™re not alone; according to one medical review, about 39% of those who were pregnant or had just given birth experienced headaches.
What helps pregnancy headaches?
There are many reasons why someone experiences headaches during pregnancy, and each cause will determine the best course of treatment. Fortunately, most remedies are simple fixes, such as the followingâ€¦
Hydration is important for everyone, especially during pregnancy. During this period, itâ€™s easy to become dehydrated for many reasons, such as vomiting from morning sickness. One nasty side effect of dehydration? Headaches. As such, prioritizing hydration is key to banishing pregnancy headaches.
How much water should you drink?
The general rule of thumb, according to the National Academy of Medicine, is 10 8-oz. cups of water a day. Itâ€™s important to remember that every individual and every pregnancy is unique, though. That means that some people will need a little more or maybe a little less. One way to tell if youâ€™re properly hydrated? Check your urine. Ideally, it should be clear and light yellow.
What you eat can impact headache intensity and frequency as much as what you drink...
11. Eat a Proper Diet
Pregnancy cravings may have you reaching for some delicious (yet unhealthy) junk foods. To be clear, the occasional treat is fine. Just make sure youâ€™re eating an overall proper diet, as poor nutrition during pregnancy can contribute to headaches.
Big or small meals?
Eating smaller meals throughout the day is better than eating three large ones, as it better regulates blood sugar levels, which can drop during pregnancy. One symptom of low blood sugar? You probably guessed it: headaches. Regulating blood pressure is also important for those with gestational diabetes, or diabetes during pregnancy, as blood sugar can also rise during this time.
What are good foods to eat while pregnant?
The answer to this question will vary by individual, as everyone has different nutritional requirements. That said, nutrient-dense foods include:
- Dairy products
- Dark, leafy greens
- Lean meat
- Whole grains
Pregnancy can increase the risk of fatigue, which can in turn increase the risk for headaches. That makes the following a great way to combat pregnancy headaches...
10. Prioritize Sleep
Sleep and health are intricately linked; pregnancy is no exception to this rule. When pregnant individuals feel exhausted, their chances of experiencing a headache increase. The solution is fortunately simple: prioritize sleep.
How can you sleep better during pregnancy?
From adding an extra (short) nap to practicing proper sleep hygiene, getting some extra shut-eye can do wonders for your health during pregnancy. Experts recommend pregnant individuals sleep on their left side, as itâ€™s beneficial for both the parent and fetus. Those who have issues adjusting to this position may find that a specialized pregnancy pillow can help.
One common cause of pregnancy headaches? Morning sickness...
9. Manage Morning Sickness
Experts estimate that between roughly 50% to 75% of people experience morning sickness, or the sensation of feeling queasy during pregnancy. For many, morning sickness involves not just nausea but also vomiting. Unfortunately, both can contribute to more frequent and more severe headaches.
How do you manage morning sickness?
Learning how to manage morning sickness is consequently vital to combating pregnancy headaches. Drinking cold fluids, chewing ginger candy, and avoiding salty and sugary foods are all common ways to reduce the odds of morning sickness.
Getting up and moving can also help you fight headaches...
Physical inactivity can make anyone feel unwell; this fact is doubly true during pregnancy. Making sure you include physical activity in your daily lifestyle can not only help you fight headaches, but also help you feel better overall during your pregnancy.
What exercises are safe during pregnancy?
Everyone should clear their exercises with their medical providers first.
That said, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that moderate-intensity aerobic activity is generally recommended during healthy pregnancies. These activities include walking, riding a stationary bike, gardening, swimming, and modified yoga.
Proper form is crucial during both physical activities and while remaining stationary...
7. Correct Your Posture
Poor posture can lead to all sorts of aches and pains, including tension headaches. As a pregnancy progresses, maintaining proper posture is increasingly important. Unfortunately, itâ€™s also increasingly more difficult to maintain proper posture as pregnancies progress and balance shifts.
How can you correct your posture?
There are several ways a pregnant person can correct their posture, including:
- When sleeping, lying down on the left side with the knees slightly bent
- When sitting, tilting the pelvis forward while not slouching and not crossing the legs
- When standing, tucking the pelvis and no locking the knees
Sometimes certain types of headaches, like migraines, increase sensitivity to temperature. In such cases, the upcoming cool solution may help...PAGE BREAK
6. Apply an Ice Pack
Many pregnant people experience migraines, especially if they experienced them before becoming pregnant. One side effect of migraines is sensitivity to temperature. So, for those who feel hot during a migraine, applying an ice pack or cold cloth to the forehead can provide comfort.
For others, turning up the heat will be a better option...
5. Apply a Heating Pad
For some people, applying a heating pad or warm towel will provide the relief they crave.
How do you apply a heating pad?
Simply apply it to the affected area for desired results. Just be careful if you use a plug-in heating pad, as sleeping with one can increase the risk of burns or even fire hazards.
Ice packs and heating pads are simple fixes for pregnancy headaches. Sometimes, however, a professional intervention is necessary...
4. Seek Emergency Medical Care
Some pregnancies require closer monitoring than others. One particular cause for concern is preeclampsia (toxemia), or high blood pressure (hypertension) during pregnancy accompanied by worrying signs of organ damage.
What are the signs of preeclampsia?
Anyone who suspects they have toxemia should seek medical attention right away. Signs of severe preeclampsia include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Blurry vision
- Fatigue, or excessive tiredness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Photophobia (sensitivity to light)
- Significantly reduced urine output (oliguria)
- Shortness of breath
What treats preeclampsia?
Treatment varies based on several factors, such as how far along the pregnancy is and how severe the condition is. In emergency situations, the following are acceptable treatments:
- IV hydralazine
- IV labetalol
- Oral nifedipine
The primary drug classes medical providers use to treat preeclampsia are:
- Anticonvulsants (anti-seizure drugs), such as magnesium sulfate
- Corticosteroids (a steroid), such as dexamethasone for severe cases where a medical provider considers it necessary to improve platelet count
- Antihypertensives (blood pressure-lowering medications), such as hydralazine, nifedipine, nicardipine, sodium nitroprusside, labetalol, and methyldopa
Besides taking prescription medications, other ways to reduce blood pressure during pregnancy (and also reduce the risk of headaches) includes the following dietary trick...
3. Swap Salt for Fiber
According to the American Heart Association, reducing sodium intake can significantly reduce the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure). Since evidence suggests that lowering salt intake can reduce not just hypertension risks but also headache frequency, slashing salt intake is important during pregnancy and beyond.
What should replace salt?
Instead of salty foods, what do experts recommend? According to the American Migraine Foundation, research indicates that whole grains packed with fiber are part of a healthy diet that is less likely to trigger migraines.
Pregnancy can be a stressful time. Since stress is a common headache trigger, learning how to manage stress can be a great way to reduce pregnancy-related headaches...
2. Practice Relaxation Techniques
Pregnancy can be a joyful experience as well as a stressful one. Unfortunately, stress is a common trigger of headaches, including migraines. Doubly unfortunate, constant and/or severe headaches can induce stress on their own, creating a self-feeding cycle of stress and headaches.
Therefore, while easier said than done, practicing relaxation techniques can go a long way to reducing the severity and frequency of headaches during pregnancy.
What are some ways to relax?
Everyone de-stresses differently. You donâ€™t need to find some niche way to unwind; you simply have to make sure you practice techniques that work for you. Some common relaxation techniques include:
- Listening to music
- Watching ASMR videos
- Talking to loved ones
Of course, the best way to treat a headache is to prevent one from happening in the first place. The following method can help you learn (and avoid) your unique headache triggers...
1. Keep a Headache Journal
Prevention really is the best medicine. In the case of headaches, learning how to avoid your triggers is the best treatment.
How do you keep a headache journal?
To keep a headache journal, mark down the following each day:
- Did you have a headache?
- If so, for how long and at what time?
- How severe is the headache?
- What and when did you eat and drink?
After about two weeks, a pattern should emerge. This pattern can help you identify triggers. Once identified, you can more easily avoid these triggers or reduce their impact. Even better, you can bring your journal with you when you speak to your medical providers. This way, they have detailed information regarding your health and habits so they can make more informed recommendations on how best to tackle your headaches.
Most times, headaches during pregnancy are not a cause for alarm. However, those who experience severe and constant headaches or migraines that are different from what they usually experience should seek medical attention right away, as it could be a sign of a serious underlying medical condition.
Disclaimer: this article does not constitute or replace medical advice. If you have an emergency or a serious medical question, please contact a medical professional or call 911 immediately.