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headaches in pregnancy

Is it normal to have headaches in pregnancy?

The first trimester of pregnancy can lead to a range of different symptoms, some of which you might not have been expecting.

Headaches are one of those, triggered by the hormonal fluctuations and more common in the first few weeks of pregnancy. Pregnancy headaches are often dull headaches on both sides of your head and can also be associated with eye strain, stress and general fatigue that we can also see in the first trimester.

If you were already a migraine sufferer pre-pregnancy, pregnancy may also affect your migraine pattern. Some women find their migraines improve, whilst for others it may worsen. Some women may have worsening migraines in the first trimester, but improved in the second and third trimester. This improvement may be due to the increased oestrogen levels and increased levels of natural pain-killing hormones (endorphins).

New onset migraine aura may also appear in pregnancy. A minority of women may have their first onset of migraine during pregnancy or postpartum. Migraines headaches are one sided, throbbing in nature and associated with vomiting or sensitivity to light or sound. 

 

How can I treat Pregnancy headaches?

Firstly, small lifestyle change may improve your headaches. This can include:

  • Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of fluids
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet
  • Ensuring you are well rested and are getting enough sleep
  • Finding ways to relax and de-stress, e.g., mindfulness, meditation, yoga or massage
  • Avoid staring at screens for long periods of time
  • Make a headache diary to identify and then avoid potential headache triggers

Taking medication during pregnancy

During pregnancy and breast feeding, it is preferred not to take medication where possible. Many medications are contraindicated or haven’t been tested extensively in pregnant or breast-feeding women.

If you are trying to conceive and take a regular medication for your pre-existing headaches, check with your GP or midwife if this is safe to continue in pregnancy.

You can take paracetamol when pregnant. Go for the lowest effective dose. There are some painkillers that should be avoided during pregnancy and include codeine, ibuprofen and aspirin (aspirin may be prescribed by a doctor for other pregnancy conditions such as pre-eclampsia). If your headaches aren’t improving with paracetamol and other measures, speak to your GP or midwife as other medications may be prescribed under specialist guidance.

Dr Anna Cantlay

Dr Anna Cantlay - GP and Chief Medical Officer at For The Creators

Dr Anna Cantlay is an experienced NHS and private GP based in London.

Anna’s priority and passion is making healthcare convenient, accessible and personalised to you and your family. Anna is passionate about Womens Healthcare and is a Menopause specialist.