When you’re expecting a baby, you may find a sudden increase in the number of headaches you’re experiencing. We’ll avoid making puns about how pregnancy can be a real headache (oops— we just did). The most common causes of headaches during pregnancy are hormone fluctuations and increased blood volume which can cause blood vessels in your brain to swell and ache.
For immediate and short term relief, Tylenol (generic: acetaminophen) is generally safe to consume during pregnancy— but not ibuprofen (Advil) or aspirin. Warmth like a heating pad on the neck may help, or a warm cloth draped over your eyes and sinuses. Cold packs on the head or neck may also be helpful if you find cold soothing.
Some simple lifestyle changes can reduce the occurrence of many common headaches.
Dehydration headaches are easily fixed by upping your fluid intake, whether from liquids or foods like cucumbers and watermelon that have a high water content. To prevent your blood sugar levels from crashing and leaving your head pounding, switch from three big meals a day to six smaller ones (which can also aid in digestion and help classic pregnancy constipation and heartburn troubles). And be aware of noise levels in your home, keeping the volume low on the TV and radio throughout the day. Most importantly, make sure you’re getting the right amount of sleep– too much or too little can leave you groggy and heavy headed.
In addition to the above measures, practicing gentle yoga or other daily stretches can improve tension headaches. As you progress in your pregnancy, the weight of your baby can begin to pull you forward, creating bad posture and resulting discomfort. Besides being physically beneficial, moderate exercise can work wonders on your mood and mental wellness.
Vision changes are common during pregnancy and can put strain on your eyes.
Make sure to get your prescription updated and wear your glasses or contact lenses to prevent these headaches. This is not to be confused with sudden vision changes, which can be a symptom of preeclampsia and should be immediately reported to your doctor or midwife.
Migraines are the worst type of pregnancy headache,
and while most people with migraines note a decreased occurrence of them while pregnant, others may have the opposite effect and develop them after conceiving. Keeping a list of the circumstances and foods surrounding your migraines can help you avoid triggers (common ones include cheeses, chocolate, and coffee). In the meantime, relief is best found in a dark and quiet room. If you’re open to it, consuming some caffeine can open up the restriction in your blood vessels and take the edge off in some cases.
For beats-all relief, great for migraines but helpful for any kind of headache, the grounding head press (demonstrated here) is truly exquisite- get a partner to come help.
As with all symptoms, if your headaches become persistent and severe, contact your awesome care provider. If your headaches are accompanied by dizziness, blurred vision, abdominal pain, or swelling, seek medical attention at once.