How Do I Treat Headaches During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, you want to try and relieve your headache by natural means if possible, however your health care provider may recommend acetaminophen.
You may want to try to relieve your headache with one or more of the following natural remedies:
- If you have a sinus headache, apply a warm compress around your eyes and nose
- If you have a tension headache, apply a cold compress or ice pack at the base of your neck
- Maintain your blood sugar by eating smaller, more frequent meals this may also help prevent future headaches
- Get a massage massaging your shoulders and neck is an effective way to relieve pain
- Rest in a dark room and practice deep breathing
- Take a warm shower or bath
- Practice good posture
- Get plenty of rest and relaxation
What Can I Do To Prevent Migraines
One of the best ways to prevent migraines is to recognize what triggers an attack and trying to avoid them. For example, stress, eating certain foods or lack of sleep may bring on an attack.
Avoiding your triggers can be difficult when youre pregnant. For example, if you have morning sickness you may not feel like eating or drinking much. This can cause low blood sugar or dehydration, so its important to try and find ways to cope.
Getting enough sleep may also be difficult during pregnancy. Try our tips for a better nights sleep.
You should also try to
- rest and relax as much as possible. You could try things like mindfulness or yoga.
Tracking Triggers With A Migraine Diary
Hormone changes during pregnancy are not the only thing that can trigger migraine headaches. Most women have a combination of triggers. For instance, stress, skipped meals, and lack of sleep may all trigger a migraine. And something that triggers a migraine one day may not bother you at all the next.
Some migraines last a few hours. Others, if left untreated, could last a couple of days. Migraines are quite unpredictable. So while pregnancy may make them worse for one woman, they might completely disappear for another.
A headache diary can let you track your particular triggers. This will help your doctor decide on what treatment will work best to relieve your specific symptoms. It may also help you recognize a pattern that tells you which triggers to avoid while you’re pregnant.
Each time you have a headache, write down:
- Your specific symptoms: where you feel the pain, what the pain feels like, and any other symptoms such as vomiting or sensitivity to noise, smells, or bright light
- The time your headache started and ended
- Food and beverages you had during the 24 hours before the migraine
- Any change in your environment, such as traveling to a new place, a change in weather, or trying new kinds of food
- Any treatment you tried, and whether it helped or made the headache worse
- Foods that contain the preservatives MSG and nitrates
- Aspartame, the sweetener in NutraSweet and Equal
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When To Get Medical Help
Its important to get medical help you if have severe or frequent migraine symptoms that are disrupting your sleep. Any time a headache wakes you from sleep, its suggested you see a doctor for evaluation, as a headache can be a symptom of a more serious underlying cause.
Its also important to get medical help if your symptoms worsen.
Call emergency medical services or go to the nearest emergency room if you or somebody youre with develops emergency symptoms, such as:
- paralysis or weakness in one or both limbs
- slurred or garbled speech
What Factors Contribute To Postpartum Headache
Even though theres a unique physiology, biology behind whats postpartum migraine, there are many environmental factors that are probably contributing as well, Vgontzas said, and the possibility of migraine after pregnancy is something moms-to-be should prepare for. My advice to women is to discuss it with their physician even before they have their baby, Vgontzas said.
Many of the lifestyle changes that come with a new baby are the same behaviors that can exacerbate migraine. Vgontzas lists sleep deprivation caused by infant care as a potential trigger. Some women anecdotally will say that their headaches were a little bit worse in the postpartum period, Vgontzas said. That might be because they dont have the luxury of just going into a quiet and dark room to rest or sleep. Additionally, common migraine triggers like increased stress and missing meals are incidental for new parents and may contribute to postpartum migraine.
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About Migraine Headaches During Pregnancy
Headaches are quite common in pregnancy. The most common are tension headaches and migraine headaches. Most headaches come and go, but others may be more bothersome or may be caused by other complications. It is important for women to consult their doctor about any headaches they may have before, during, or after pregnancy.
Could It Be A Hypnic Headache
Hypnic headaches occur exclusively during sleep. They most often affect people over 50 and are characterized by headaches more than 15 times per month.
Hypnic headaches can feel similar to migraine headaches, but they only occur at night. Theyre also called alarm clock headaches because they often happen at the same time each night.
Migraine headaches often cause pain on one side of your head. Hypnic headaches usually cause pain that spreads across both sides of your head. A doctor can help you figure out if youre experiencing hypnic headaches or migraine headaches based on your symptoms and when your headaches occur.
Migraine doesnt have a cure, but treatment can help you manage your symptoms.
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Preventive Treatment In Pregnancy
It is best to start nonpharmacologic behavioral changes known to decrease frequency and severity of migraines before pregnancy to make them learned behaviors. These approaches include relaxation therapy, biofeedback, and behavioral sleep modification, the latter of which may revert chronic migraines to episodic.11,12 Although these approaches are viable first-line treatment options for some pregnant women or individuals considering pregnancy, they may not be sufficient for others. For women with high frequency of migraine or significant disability due to migraine, the risk of pharmacologic agents needs to be weighed against the health consequences of untreated migraine, which can negatively affect both the mother and fetus. Untreated migraine can lead to poor oral intake, resulting in inadequate nutrition and dehydration in addition to sleep deprivation, increased stress, and depression.13
Vitamins and Minerals
Oral Pharmacologic Agents
A recent cohort study evaluating outcomes of children born to mothers who used beta blockers during pregnancy showed no increased congenital malformation risk.18 A prior cohort study, however, did show an association between beta blockers and fetal growth restriction, preterm birth, and perinatal mortality. The use of beta blockers for migraine prevention in pregnancy may warrant close monitoring of fetal growth.19
Are Migraines Dangerous During Pregnancy
The only danger is when your headache may be a sign of something else. You should ALWAYS call your health care provider when:
- Your headache is accompanied by a fever
- Your headache persists for more than a few hours or returns frequently
- You are experiencing blurred vision
It is ALWAYS important to let your health care provider know when you are experiencing any headaches and the details about them.
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Addressing The Contextual Question
For drug levels, we will summarize data found in major databases such as the Drugs and Lactation Database . For drug levels not available from the databases, we will search for existing systematic reviews.
Based on data and input garnered from these sources, we will answer the contextual question in a narrative format. We will not systematically extract or review all eligible studies, create summary tables, or assess the strength of evidence.
Migraine Triggers During Pregnancy
Hormonal change is a common trigger for women with migraine. During pregnancy, oestrogen levels increase sharply, while progesterone levels decrease and rise again towards the end of the pregnancy.
Overall migraine improves during pregnancy especially during the second and third trimesters. This improvement may be due to the increased oestrogen levels and increased levels of natural pain-killing hormones .
These hormones are several times higher during pregnancy, and though the relief from migraine attacks they provide might last the whole pregnancy, the levels settle back down after delivery, normally allowing migraine attacks to return.
However, not everyone will see an improvement in their migraine, especially in the early weeks of pregnancy. For some women, their migraine is unaffected. Some women experience worsening migraine during pregnancy although this is rare.
During breastfeeding, stable oestrogen levels continue to be protective against having headache again after pregnancy.
However you are affected, it can help to identify any migraine attack triggers that you have, such as lack of sleep, stress, missed meals and dehydration. Keeping a headache diary may help pinpoint your triggers so you can avoid those things. Log when the headache happened, what triggered it, and how long it lasted. Common triggers include but are not limited to:
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Remedies For Migraines During Pregnancy
Migraines are intense headaches that can occur as a symptom of pregnancy. These are different from stress or tension headaches. It is also normal to experience your first migraine during pregnancy. Some studies have found a slight correlation between migraines and hormones. This makes questions about how to treat migraines naturally while expecting common.
Headaches In Early Pregnancy
Nearly all women have occasional headaches, but having a headache in pregnancy is not fun. And, managing headaches is especially tricky in the first trimester when you should avoid many medicines. Whether your headache is from tension or is a full-blown migraine, there are some things you should know.
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How To Treat Migraines When Naturally Doesnt Work
Sometimes, a migraine might continue to plague you, even after you have tried the above remedies. If the pain persists, you can take Tylenol however, it is important to avoid Aspirin and Ibuprofen. These are not safe to take during pregnancy. If the migraines become a constant nuisance, you may want to talk to your doctor about alternative medications that are safe to take during pregnancy. You can learn more about which medications are safe during pregnancy here.
If you currently take pain medication for migraines, it is best to discuss with your doctor whether it is safe to continue using. It is best to avoid using any herbal remedies to alleviate migraines during pregnancy, as many have not been tested, and some have been shown to lead to complications.
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How To Treat Patients For Migraine During Pregnancy
Its important for providers who treat women during their reproductive years to be aware of treatment options that are safe during pregnancy. Many women with migraine who are pregnant or considering pregnancy stop taking their migraine medications and assume they dont have safe treatment options availablebut this is simply not true.
Women typically start to experience migraine attacks during adolescence, which aligns with when menstruation begins. The highest incidence of migraine is between ages 18 and 44, which are also the year many women experience pregnancy. The rate of migraine among women is three times higher than it is for men. Because of these figures, it is believed that fluctuations in estrogen levels play a role in migraine development.
Dr. Tracy Grossman, an obstetrician-gynecologist who has completed a fellowship in maternal-fetal medicine and earned a masters in neuroscience, shares the range of treatment options available for pregnant patients with migraine.
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What Causes Headaches During Pregnancy
The primary culprits are pregnancy hormones, though there are many other causes of headaches during every stage of pregnancy. This type of pain can have lots of triggers, which means it can come on at any time. Some common causes:
- Hormones: Headaches are often an early sign of pregnancy and tend to begin during the first trimester when your hormone levels surge and blood volume increases.
- Trigger foods: Certain foods like cheese, chocolate, dairy and processed meats like bacon can trigger a headache in any trimester. Women who drink less caffeine in pregnancy may get withdrawal headaches.
- Sinus congration: If youre suffering from sinus congestion, a runny nose or allergies , a headache may accompany these symptoms.
- Dehydration: The dehydration that often goes hand in hand with nausea and vomiting can also cause your head to throb.
- High blood pressure: After week 20 in pregnancy, severe headaches may be related to high blood pressure. This may raise your risk of a number of pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia and premature delivery, so it’s important to talk to your doctor if you notice this symptom.
Other causes can include:
On the bright side, at least for those already prone to migraines: Surging hormones during pregnancy might actually make those less-than-pleasant headaches less frequent.
What Are The Symptoms Of Migraine Headaches
The two most common types of migraines are classic migraines and common migraines. The following are the most common symptoms. However, each woman may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
Migraine aura. A type of migraine that involves the appearance of neurological symptoms, called an aura , 10 to 30 minutes before an attack. An attack may last one or two days. Pain associated with classic migraines may be described as:
Intense throbbing or pounding felt in the forehead, temple, ear, jaw, or around the eye.
Starting on one side of the head, but may spread to the other side.
Migraine without aura. A type of migraine that is generally not preceded by an aura, although there may be a variety of symptoms prior to its onset. Common migraine pain may last three or four days. Symptoms may include:
Diarrhea and increased urination
Nausea and vomiting
The symptoms of migraines may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.
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Other Ways To Prevent Or Treat A Headache During Pregnancy
Here are some more ways to find pregnancy headache relief:
Figure out your headache triggers. Headache specialists often recommend keeping a headache diary to help you identify specific triggers. The next time you get a migraine or headache, write down everything you ate for the 24 hours prior and what you were doing when your headache started.
Some common migraine triggers include foods that contain:
Use a compress. You may be able to find relief if you apply a warm or cool compress to your forehead or the base of your skull.
Take a shower. For some migraine sufferers, a cold shower brings fast if temporary headache relief. If you can’t take a shower, splash cool water on your face. A warm shower or bath can soothe tension headaches.
Don’t go hungry or thirsty. To prevent low blood sugar , eat small meals frequently. When you’re on the go, take along some healthy snacks, such as crackers, fruit, or yogurt. Stay away from straight sugar, like candy or soda, which can make your blood sugar spike and crash.
Don’t forget to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated. Sip water slowly if you’ve recently vomited from a migraine.
Avoidfatigue. Get plenty of sleep at night. When you’re having a migraine, it might be helpful to sleep in a quiet, dark room.
Exercises to help you maintain good posture may be especially helpful with headaches during the third trimester.
If a professional massage isn’t an option, ask your partner to rub your back and head.
How Is A Migraine Attack Prevented In Pregnancy
Migraine prevention is more difficult when a patient is pregnant. Preventive agents are associated with the possibility of complications during pregnancy, so they should ideally be stopped in women planning to conceive .). Propranolol is both effective and safe. Unfortunately, the neuromodulators, valproate , topiramate, and gabapentin, are not established as safe valproate is a known teratogen.2324
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How Can I Treat A Headache In Pregnancy
If you have a mild headache, its safe to take paracetamol. Make sure you follow the instructions on the packet for how much you can take.
There are some painkillers you should not take while youre pregnant. These include tablets or capsules that:
- contain added caffeine
- contain codeine
- are anti-inflammatory, like ibuprofen or aspirin.
Some women may be advised to take a low dose of aspirin as a treatment if they have had miscarriages before or they are at risk of pre-eclampsia. This will be prescribed by a doctor. Aspirin should not be taken as treatment for a headache.
Try to take the lowest dose of paracetamol that works and for the shortest amount of time. Your midwife, GP or pharmacist can give you more advice if the pain is ongoing and doesnt go away with paracetamol.
Find out more about drugs and medicines in pregnancy.
Is It Normal To Experience Migraine During Pregnancy
Migraine is typical during early pregnancy. As many as 1520% of pregnant people experience migraine at some point.
A person should consult a doctor if they have never experienced a migraine-like headache before pregnancy, if their migraine happens after 20 weeks, or if they have other, more serious symptoms such as pitting edema or high blood pressure.
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Headache And Migraine Remedies That Are Safe During Pregnancy
Most women deal with headaches at some point in their lives. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that one in five women had a severe acute headache or migraine in the previous three months. Additionally, migraines are more common in women than men approximately 18 percent of women have them compared to 6.5 percent of men.
Because headaches and migraines are so common, its probably no surprise that many women deal with them during pregnancy. For the majority of pregnant women, occasional headaches or migraines are no cause for alarm, and most standard treatments are safe. However, suffering a severe headache at key times during or after pregnancy can indicate a serious medical emergency.