Headaches & Pregnancy: Types, Triggers and Prevention Tips
As if the nausea, fatigue, and swollen feet, weren’t enough, another common symptom of pregnancy is headaches. The most common times that women experience headaches during pregnancy are during the first and third trimesters. However, they can occur at any time during these formative nine months.
Here is some information about headaches during pregnancy, including the types of headaches pregnant women have, why they are common, and prevention tips.
Why Pregnant Women Experience Headaches
Women’s bodies are constantly changing once they become pregnant, so there are many factors that can cause headaches. Two of the most common causes are hormone changes and increased blood volume. However, pregnancy headaches can also often be caused by dehydration, poor sleep, and stress.
Women who abruptly stop drinking coffee and other caffeinated beverages when they find out they’re pregnant may develop caffeine withdrawal headaches. Dehydration headaches are also common in women who are not drinking enough water to support both themselves and the unborn child. If a woman has low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia, this may result in headaches as well during pregnancy.
Types of Headaches During Pregnancy
Overall, tension headaches are the most common types of headaches. Since this type of headache is often caused by lack of sleep, caffeine withdrawal, stress, and depression, these are also the most common headaches felt by pregnant women.
Yet another type of headache, the migraine headache, affects about 18 percent of women at some point during the lifetime. The most common time that pregnant women get migraines is during the first trimester, and certain foods can trigger them. Foods to consider carefully if one is prone to migraines include aged cheese, bread with fresh yeast, yogurt, and chocolate. The increase in blood flow to the brain may cause the onset and progression of migraines.
A third and rarer type of headache that can affect pregnant women is the preeclampsia headache. This is a severe type of headache that is also called toxemia and typically occurs in the third trimester. These are throbbing and persistent headaches that are often accompanied by blurred vision, sudden weight gain, hand and face swelling, and pain in the upper right part of the abdomen. Preeclampsia is a serious condition and requires immediate medical attention.
Headache Prevention for Pregnant Women
Pregnant women must be especially careful about which prescriptions and over-the-counter medications they take. It is important to discuss familiar headache medications like Vanquish with a doctor to determine their safety and dosage recommendations to take during pregnancy.
Tension headaches are often the easiest types of headaches to prevent and avoid with nutrition, lifestyle, and self-care. Well-balanced meals, plenty of rest, light exercise, and good posture go a long way in preventing headaches before they strike. Eating small, frequent meals can help keep the body’s blood sugar stable and prevent new headaches from forming. Mild tension headaches can often be soothed away by applying an ice pack or cold compress at the base of the neck. Warm showers and baths can also help sooth away tension that causes headaches, and a neck and shoulder massage can relieve pain safely and naturally.
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