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Headaches in pregnancy

Headaches in pregnancy


Many women experience headaches during their pregnancies. The first 12 weeks are the most common time, but they are not confined to this period.



Some women who tend to be prone to headaches or migraines find they do not experience them as often when they are pregnant. However, others may find they are worse.

Why headaches happen

Frequent headaches may be due to:

  • Hormonal changes in the woman's body, as well as the normal increase in blood volume circulating in her system during pregnancy.
  • Tension and adjusting to a new pregnancy, making the early weeks a stressful time for many women.
  • Eyestrain. Fluid volumes in the eyeballs can change during pregnancy, affecting your sight. It may be helpful to have your eyes checked by an optometrist or ophthalmologist during the pregnancy. If you are worried, seek the advice of your caregiver or hospital.

NOTE: Headaches during the second half of the pregnancy (usually after 24 weeks) could be a sign of high blood pressure. These headaches can sometimes be associated with blurred vision or seeing spots in front of the eyes. If you are suffering from a headache and you are more than 24 weeks pregnant, you should let your caregiver know and possibly have your blood pressure checked as soon as possible.

Treating headaches

Some women prefer to use natural therapies to help deal with their headaches. Check with your caregiver and/or natural therapist.

Massage

A massage to the neck, shoulders, scalp and temples can bring great relief when you have a headache. Applying a cool or warm cloth (whichever you prefer) to the back of your neck or forehead may also help. Some women will use tiger balm on their temples (at the side of their forehead).

Aromatherapy

Your aromatherapist may suggest using a drop of Lavender essential oil on your pillow to sleep at night, or a drop of spearmint oil on a tissue to inhale. (In general, essential oils should not be used before 12 weeks of pregnancy. Peppermint used to be recommended, but this is now considered toxic during pregnancy. Please see your aromatherapist before using essential oils.)

Herbs or homoeopathy

There are many remedies that a herbalist or homoeopath may suggest for your individual condition. See them for any suggested treatments.

Chiropractic or Osteopathy

Some women find a treatment by their chiropractor or osteopath helps, especially if their headaches are caused by their neck or jaw being out of alignment.

Acupuncture

treatments can be helpful in relieving tension and muscle tightness. Treatments by an experienced acupuncturist may be helpful.

Medical treatments

If you contact your caregiver about experiencing a headache during pregnancy, they may suggest you take a mild pain killer. (This is usually a paracetamol, but check with your caregiver before doing this.) Minimise your intake as much as possible. If one does the trick then keep it at that, and never exceed the recommended dosages on the packet. 

What to avoid

Be guided by your caregiver. However, painkillers with aspirin or codeine in them are not generally recommended. Other forms of over- the-counter analgesics should also be avoided. Stronger painkillers and migraine medications should not be taken (unless prescribed by your doctor, knowing you are pregnant).

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