Headache And High Blood Pressure
If you know you have been experiencing higher-than-normal blood pressure, you should take major headaches seriously. A headache associated with high blood pressure is a strong indicator of preeclampsia. This can put both you and your unborn baby at risk .
Preeclampsia usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy and can be carefully controlled by your physician. Some tests can be conducted to confirm whether or not you have this complication.
Other symptoms of preeclampsia include blurred vision, blind spots, or dizziness. Any combination of these with headaches can be concerning.
Recognizing More Serious Problems
When Should I See A Doctor
Everyone may experience a headache or migraine from time to time, and even more so during pregnancy. Since its an expected side effect, in most cases, you can use remedies for pregnancy headaches. Sometimes though, your headaches dont go away or are severe enough to need a doctors help.
You should see a doctor for pregnancy headaches if youre experiencing:
- Persisting headaches that cant be treated
- Severe pain
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What Do Early Pregnancy Headaches Feel Like
If youre at the beginning stages of your journey, you might be wondering what early pregnancy headaches feel like. Although you may get a typical tension headache, migraines are also common during the first weeks or months. In fact, a headache or migraine might be one of the first signs of pregnancy for some people. However, since theres many possible causes, you wont know without taking a pregnancy test.
A tension headache;creates mild to moderate pain behind the eyes and might feel like having a tight band around your head. These are the most common type of headaches.
A migraine feels like a throbbing sensation, usually on one side. They may cause nausea and vomiting in severe cases.
Managing a headache or migraine in the first trimester may be particularly difficult because theres many medications you should avoid.
Using Painkillers When Pregnant
Some medicines, including painkillers, can harm your baby’s health.
Paracetamol is generally considered safe during pregnancy. Always check the packaging for the correct amount of tablets to take, and how often you may take them.
If you find you need to take paracetamol for more than a couple of days, you may need to speak to your GP.
Ibuprofen is sometimes recommended for headaches during pregnancy. You can only take this at certain times during your pregnancy. Always check with your GP, pharmacist or obstetrician before taking ibuprofen.
Check with your GP, pharmacist or midwife before taking any medication.
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Second And Third Trimesters
In the second and third trimesters, a woman may be less likely to experience headaches due to hormonal changes, as the body has usually adjusted to these changes by this stage of pregnancy.
However, some women continue to experience tension headaches from hormonal changes throughout their pregnancy.
In the later stages of pregnancy, symptoms such as headaches are more likely to be due to:
- excess weight
- poor diet
What Medications Should I Avoid When Im Pregnant
Starling recommends against taking NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen during pregnancy. Thats because in the first trimester, these drugs are linked to an increased risk of spontaneous abortions, and in the third trimester, there are concerns about fetal kidney issues, and other issues with the fetus, she says.
A study published in 2018 in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that NSAID use in women around conception was associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, especially in women with a lower body mass index .
The FDA issued a safety warning in 2020 that recommends avoiding NSAIDs in pregnancy at 20 weeks or later because they can result in low amniotic fluid and may cause rare kidney problems in unborn babies.
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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.
What Can I Do About Headaches
Steps to manage headaches include the following:
Avoid any known headache triggers, including allergens and certain foods, like monosodium glutamate, cured meats, and strong cheeses.
Smoking is never a good idea in pregnancy. You should also avoid secondhand smoke.
Try to eat well and drink plenty of fluids, especially if you are prone to morning sickness.
Reduce your stress level. Try a massage or cold pack to help with tension headaches.;
If your headache is a migraine, rest in a cool, dark room with no noise, and try using warm or cold compresses or an ice pack.
There is good news, however. Most women have fewer headaches during pregnancy, especially after the first trimester. And those with a history of migraines often find there is improvement during pregnancy.
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Outlook For Headache During Pregnancy
Headache pain during pregnancy is common. You may have tension headaches during your first trimester of pregnancy. This may happen because of the many changes that youre going through in a short period.
Headache pain may happen in the second and third period of your pregnancy for other reasons. Some causes of headaches in your mid to late pregnancy may be serious.
High blood pressure is a serious cause of headache pain during pregnancy. You can have high blood pressure at any time in your pregnancy. You may not have any symptoms at all. Check your blood pressure at least once a day with a home monitor.
Tell your doctor if you have headaches at any time in your pregnancy. Let your doctor know right away if you have a personal or family history of migraine, high blood pressure, seizures or diabetes.
Take all medications and treatment exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Follow all diet and exercise advice carefully. See your doctor for all follow-up and regular check-ups. Most causes of headaches during pregnancy are treatable or preventable with the right care.
For more pregnancy guidance and weekly tips tailored to your due date, sign up for our Im Expecting newsletter.
Last medically reviewed on May 6, 2019
Medications For Headaches During Pregnancy
Consult your doctor about the medications for a headache during pregnancy. If you have persistent migraine pain, then you might refer to a neurologist or a maternal-fetal medicine specialist .
- Your doctor may recommend regular pain medication such as acetaminophen for headaches. But some studies suggest its adverse effects on the baby .
- The first-line drug for migraines during pregnancy is preferably 1,000mg of paracetamol . Aspirin and ibuprofen could be taken in low doses periodically, but avoid them in the last trimester;.
- For tension headaches, over-the-counter analgesics, such as codeine, and paracetamol are recommended. But non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents and salicylates are not advisable .
- For cluster headaches, the first-line treatment includes oxygen therapy, wherein the patient is subjected to a high flow of oxygen. A considerable reduction in the pain may be observed after 30 minutes of taking this therapy .
- Consult your doctor before taking any medicine during pregnancy.
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If I Tend To Get Migraines During My Period Will I Also Get Them During Pregnancy
For women who get them, they tend to hit just before or at the start of your period. The quick drop in estrogen and progesterone that occurs before your period starts could be what triggers menstrual migraines, according to the US Office on Womenâs Health.
If you suffer from menstrual migraine, you might worry that youâll also be prone to get migraines triggered by hormonal changes that happen in your body during pregnancy, but thereâs good news. Dr. Crystal points out that many women who get menstrual migraines actually see an improvement in their migraines while pregnant.
How Common Are Migraines During Pregnancy
Migraines are likely to be common in women than in men due to female sex hormones and occur with greater frequency during pregnancy. About one in five women experiences a migraine in her life as against one in 16 men.
Some women may experience migraines for the first time during pregnancy around the first trimester. However, in some cases, the migraine may diminish during pregnancy.
Usually, headaches wane toward the later stage of pregnancy. However, headache during the latter part of pregnancy with or without increased blood pressure may indicate preeclampsia. So consult your doctor.
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What Causes Headaches In Pregnancy
The exact cause of a headache isnt always clear. In the first trimester, changing hormone levels and blood volume may play a role. A;dull, overall headache can come with stress, fatigue, and eyestrain. Sinus headaches may be more likely because of the nasal congestion and runny nose that are common in early pregnancy. Hunger and low levels of blood sugar can trigger headaches, too. Women who suddenly stop their morning coffee and sodas may experience caffeine withdrawal headaches. Those who also suffer with nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy can become dehydrated. This can also bring on a headache.
Migraine headaches are a common type of headache in pregnancy. These painful, throbbing headaches are usually felt on one side of the head and result from expansion of the blood vessels in the brain. The misery is sometimes accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light.;A small percentage of women with migraines also have an aura with the migraine. They see flashes of light or feel tingling in their arms and legs.
How Is Headache Associated With Preeclampsia
If you get frequent and severe headaches during thesecond or third trimester, it could indicate preeclampsia, or PIH . Preeclampsia affects 5 to 10% of pregnancies. The headache that you may experience during this condition can be continuous and palpitating.
The headaches due to preeclampsia could be dull or severe, and throbbing, and similar to those of a migraine.
See a doctor immediately if:
- the headache is severe
- associated with a vision change, nausea vomiting, heartburn, swelling
- you have light sensitivity
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Tips For Relieving Mild Headaches
- Get plenty of rest. Sleep is especially hard later in your pregnancy but is so important to physical and mental health. Find yourself a comfy prenatal pillow and snuggle away.
- Drink plenty of water. Pregnant moms require more water than the average person. While you may want to avoid extra trips to the bathroom, adequate fluid intake is important for you and baby.
- Eat regular, well-balanced meals. To prevent low blood sugar, eat small meals throughout the day. Avoid sugar, like soda and candy.
- Get a prenatal massage. A full-body massage can release tension in the muscles of your neck, shoulders and back.
- Use warm compresses on head, neck and shoulders.
- Avoid triggers. Keep a journal to help identify specific triggers so you can learn what to avoid. Some common headache triggers include strong odors and nitrites or nitrates.
- Try exercise and relaxation techniques. Theres evidence that regular exercise can reduce stress and boost overall mood. Check with your doctor first before starting any new fitness routines.
- Take acetaminophen to relieve symptoms .
- Take caffeine in doses less than 200mg in a day .
If you have a history of migraines, however, your doctor may treat them differently during pregnancy. Discuss with your doctor what medications are safe to take during pregnancy.
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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Frequency Of Migraines During Pregnancy
Many women have migraines for the first time when theyre expecting; others, including women with a history of migraines, get them more often.
Blame your out-of-whack pregnancy hormones, plus all those other pregnancy-related triggers you’re experiencing: fatigue,;tension, blood sugar drops, physical or emotional stress, nasal congestion;and;overheating or a combination of all of these.
That said, some women who have a history of migraines related to their menstrual cycle actually end up getting these headaches less often when theyre expecting, particularly during the second and third trimesters.
Thats because their migraines are likely caused by the “withdrawal” of estrogen that occurs just before menstruation; during pregnancy, estrogen levels remain consistently high.
Things To Know About Migraines And Pregnancy
1 – Your healthcare providers can work together. Whether you see a general practitioner, neurologist, or internist for your migraines, be sure to let them know about your pregnancy or pregnancy plans. Make sure your migraine doctor also has the name of your prenatal care provider. Likewise, tell your OB/GYN or midwife about your migraines, and give them the name of your headache doctor. This allows both healthcare providers to coordinate the best care for your migraines and pregnancy.
2 – You can identify your triggers and limit them. Most of us have specific triggers that bring about migraines. Common triggers include caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and MSG to name a few. Fortunately, many typical triggers should be avoided during pregnancy, anyway. If you are unsure of your triggers, check out our list of the 7 Most Common Triggers. Keep a good headache diary and cross-reference your patterns with common triggers. You may find that it is possible to avoid your unique trigger or triggers and suffer less often.
5 – Natural remedies may help. Under the guidance of your healthcare professional, consider stocking natural remedies in case a migraine does strike. Examples include massaging lavender essential oils onto your forehead and temples, consuming ginger , drinking wintergreen tea, and using soft, wearable ice packs.
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Try A Prenatal Massage
Go to a prenatal massage therapist to relieve the stress from shoulders, neck, and back. If going out to the therapist doesnt work for you, then there are certain massages that can be done at home. Try rubbing your shoulders at the base of your skull and below your wrists. Be aware of trigger points that can induce contractions such as the point between the thumb and index finger, and avoid them.
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.
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Cautions About Headaches During Pregnancy
Most headaches and migraines are not cause for alarm. However, severe migraines sometimes require hospitalization so you can receive fluids, pain medication, or anti-nausea drugs.
Seek care right away if you experience any of these symptoms:
- Lasting headache
How To Prevent Headaches During Pregnancy
Headaches during the first trimester mostly occur due to hormonal changes, and you may not have much to do to prevent them. However, having a disciplined lifestyle could reduce the chances of headaches:
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