Is It Safe To Take Pain Medications While Pregnant
Taking pain medicine while pregnant can be cause for uncertainty, but its also a commonly reported medication taken during pregnancy. According to The Centers for Disease Control , 9 out of 10 pregnant women reported taking pain medication during pregnancy. The CDC does caution women who are pregnant, or trying to conceive, against using specific pain medications and recommends that patients consult with their medical health provider prior to taking any medications or supplements while pregnant. But that doesnt mean youre out of pain options.
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.
When Headaches Are Secondary To Other Problems
Headaches can result from other conditions, some of which are life-threatening:
Stroke: Sudden and severe headaches might be a sign of a stroke. Women who have strokes during pregnancy or after delivery typically describe the pain as the worst headache of their lives. They also might report other symptoms, such as speech problems, vision issues, or functional problems on one side of the face or body. At the emergency room, the doctor will evaluate you for stroke symptoms, such as visual changes, facial drooping, and arm or leg weakness. If you are having or had a stroke, we will get you emergency treatment at our Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center.
Preeclampsia: A headache with preeclampsia can indicate a dangerous spike in blood pressure. The doctor will assess you and might admit you to the hospital for management of blood pressure and treatment to prevent seizures.
Spinal fluid leak: A headache after an epidural or spinal block can indicate a spinal fluid leak, especially if it worsens when you sit or stand up. The most effective treatment is an epidural blood patch, in which the doctor injects a sample of your blood into the leaking area, essentially plugging the hole. This therapy provides dramatic relief right away.
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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.
What Is The Best Treatment For Headaches While Pregnant
If youre hoping to stop a headache naturally, there are plenty of pregnancy-safe steps you can take to battle your symptoms based on the common headache types:
- For tension headaches and migraines: Lie in a dark, quiet room for a few minutes or if you’re at work, close your eyes and put your feet up. You can also put an ice pack or cold compress on the back of your neck for 20 minutes while you relax. Deep breathing and quiet meditation are two more smart ways to channel calming vibes.
- For sinus headaches: A stuffy nose is very common in pregnancy, so try steam inhalation to relieve congestion and a humidifier to add moisture to the air. Apply hot and cold compresses to the achy spot, alternating 30 seconds of each for a total of 10 minutes, four times a day. Drinking lots of fluids, especially herbal tea or broth, can help clear stuffiness. And ask the doctor whether you could have a sinus infection and if theres a safe nasal decongestant you can use.
- For all headaches: While you shouldnt take ibuprofen or Aleve when you’re pregnant, acetaminophen can bring relief and occasional use is considered safe for pregnancy. Always check with your practitioner for the right dosage and never take any medication without getting your doctors okay first.
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Symptoms Of Migraines During Pregnancy
A migraine usually starts out as a dull ache and then eventually becomes a throbbing, constant, and pulsating pain in the temples, in front of the head, or base of the head. Migraines are sometimes accompanied by nausea, sensitivity to light, vomiting, dizziness, and auras, which are spots or lines that can occur across ones vision. The pain can sometimes make it difficult to focus, and symptoms can be debilitating.
When Should I Call My Doctor
Whether you experience headaches or not, its always important to discuss your pre-pregnancy history, obstetrical history and concerns with your doctor for an individualized assessment and management plan. However, if none of the above treatments resolve your mild headache or your headaches become more frequent and severe, talk to your doctor to determine the cause.
This includes new headaches that present after 20 weeks, a sudden onset of severe headaches, headaches associated with a fever, mental health changes, elevated blood pressure and vision changes, Dr. Saunders said. Its important to keep an open line of communication with your physician and let them know about any changes in your health so they can rule out anything serious.”
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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.
What Are Symptoms Of Headaches During Pregnancy
If youve had an aching head or migraine before you conceived, you probably know what a bad headache feels like. But its still a good idea to be on the lookout for the common symptoms of headaches during pregnancy, such as:
- Occasional throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head
Migraine headaches, however, can come with worse symptoms, including:
- More severe pain
- Intense pounding in the head
Some women with migraines also experience light and sound sensitivity and they find that the pain worsens if they move or change positions.
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Acetaminophen Is The Only Otc Headache Medication That’s Safe For Pregnant Women To Take
Dr. O. Lawrence Stitt, MD, an OB/GYN at Mercy Medical, told INSIDER that acetaminophen is considered a safer medication compared to the majority of the headache remedies available.
While acetaminophen can definitely help in a pinch, it’s also important to note that there are other things you can do to prevent headaches during pregnancy.
Dr. Stitt said to make sure that your blood sugar is always within a normal range. “This can be best managed by eating small frequent meals, which can allow you to keep your blood sugar in a normal range and hopefully, avoid headaches,” he added.
What Are Some Alternative Pain Relief Options During Pregnancy
Depending on the type and location of the pain, I recommend to start by using ice or alternating ice and heat, says Dr. Plummer, who cautions that you dont put the ice directly on the skin. She recommends wrapping an ice pack in a towel, or using a bag of frozen peas or a product specifically designed for pain.
Some other alternatives that Dr. Plummer recommends include:
- Topical relief creams and oils
- Epsom salt bath, but dont overheat the water
- Body pillows
When your quality of life is affected, and the natural solutions arent cutting it, then acetaminophen is an acceptable pain relief option during pregnancy.
Always talk to your healthcare provider before taking medication while pregnant. The CDC also recommends the online website MotherToBaby as a helpful resource that provides information about medication risks for pregnant mothers.
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Are Any Home Remedies Not Recommended For Someone Who Is Pregnant
You might think itâs safe to assume that anything considered a âhome remedyâ or âalternative treatmentâ for migraines is safe during pregnancy, but thatâs not the case.
Dr. Crystal calls out a few preventive supplements that should be avoided during pregnancy, including:
âIf in doubt,â she urges, âalways ask your doctor or pharmacist for their advice about taking OTC products while pregnant.â
Are Migraines During Pregnancy Bad For The Baby
Migraines can be so severe, you might worry theyâre affecting your baby too. âThe good news,â Dr. Crystal says,â is that large studies have not shown increased rates of birth defects or stillbirths in migraineurs.â
That being said, women who have migraines so severe that they end up in the emergency room have a higher risk of complications such as pre-eclampsia, preterm delivery, and low birth weight, according to the National Headache Foundation.
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What Medications Can Pregnant Women Safely Take For Migraines
If youâre not lucky enough to experience fewer migraines during pregnancy, what can you do to treat them? It turns out that, while pregnant, many prescription and over-the-counter medications are considered unsafe or risky, or just havenât been researched enough for doctors to be confident making a recommendation.
According to Dr. Crystal, âacetaminophen and metoclopramide , which can help relieve nausea and pain, are the safest medications to take.â She adds that some obstetricians may prescribe ondansetron to treat severe nausea âand consider it to be safe.â
That being said, Dr. Crystal notes that it is always best to take the lowest effective dose, even of approved medications.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen are not safe in the first or third trimesters. Similarly, you should not take naproxen while pregnant. It may be safe during the second trimester, but only if specifically approved by your doctor.
Dr. Crystal adds that while many obstetricians will advise against using triptans while pregnant, they could be safe when used occasionally. Doctors may prescribe opiates for severe headaches while youâre pregnant, but they âmust be used sparingly,â she says.
Check with your doctor before taking any migraine treatment, to be sure theyâre safe for you and your pregnancy.
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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Coffee Helps Prevent My Migraines Can I Have Caffeine While Pregnant
Caffeine and migraine have an interesting relationship. According to the National Headache Foundation, caffeine can help with pain relief, since âit contains properties It can even make some pain relievers work better. Yet for some people, caffeine a migraine trigger. And becoming reliant on caffeine every day can lead to rebound headaches.
All that said, even if you know caffeine helps fight your migraines, what can you do? Isnât caffeine off limits during pregnancy?
If youâve been resisting the urge to reach for a cup of coffee, take comfort. Dr. Crystal points out that some caffeine is okay during pregnancy . âDrinking up to 12 oz. of coffee per day, or about 200mg of caffeine, is considered safe,â she says. Still, itâs always smart to double check with your doctor before pouring yourself a cup.
Otc Medicines That Are Okay During Pregnancy
Every woman experiences pregnancy differently. You might have morning sickness for months, while your best friend feels great. One universal, however, is that pregnant women can still get sick and they experience more aches and pains than normal. Whether its the common cold, heartburn, or a headache, you might be tempted to reach for your go-to over-the-counter remedy. But before you do, its important to know what you should and shouldnt take during pregnancy. Reading labels will help you to understand whats in your medications before you take it.
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What Advice Do You Have For A Migraine Sufferer Who Just Learned Shes Expecting
Instead of waiting until the first time you have a migraine attack while pregnant, Dr. Crystal recommends talking to your doctor to work out a treatment plan in case you get an attack.
When you find out youâre pregnant, youâll probably need to work with both your obstetrician and the health care provider you see for headache treatment. Make sure to mention all of the medications you take for headaches, including supplements, and other migraine symptoms.
With so many changes in your body, itâs important to âbe extra vigilant about avoiding triggers,â adds Dr. Crystal, and to avoid skipping meals, getting dehydrated, or developing poor sleep habits.
Of course, with pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness and trouble sleeping, that could be easier said than done. But do your best to maintain healthy habits.
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.
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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.
When Should I Talk To My Doctor
Although many medications are thought to be safe during pregnancy, its important to discuss any medications youre taking with your doctor. Thats especially true if you have a high-risk pregnancy. If you experience any unusual symptoms while taking an over-the-counter medication, contact your doctor immediately. You should also contact your doctor if you think you have the flu or experience dizziness, vaginal bleeding, severe vomiting, high fever, reduced fetal movement, difficulty breathing, or chest pain. The flu can increase the risk of birth defects or premature labor.
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When To See Your Doctor
Headaches in pregnant people are particularly concerning during the third trimester, when risk for preeclampsia rises.
If you experience vision changes or seeing spots, call your doctor immediately as this is a sign of preeclampsia.
To diagnose preeclampsia, doctors will check for elevated blood pressure and may conduct a follow-up urine analysis.
If preeclampsia is ruled out, and your headache persists and is not responding to treatment especially Tylenol it’s still important to talk with a doctor to identify the root cause.
After you’ve figured out the cause, your doctor might recommend medication, like a combination of Benadryl and Reglan to treat headaches. If your doctor says the medication is safe, take it, Columbo says.
“Don’t make yourself suffer needlessly,” he says.
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
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