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What are Pregnancy Headaches? Understanding headaches during pregnancy.

Pregnancy headaches are just part of a host of other symptoms expectant mothers experience, especially during the first trimester. Often, women who don’t usually get headaches begin to develop them during pregnancy and those who are prone to headaches find that pregnancy makes the discomfort worse. While experiencing headaches during this sensitive time is quite normal, it can be a big inconvenience especially since treatment options become more limited when a woman is pregnant. The headaches expectant mothers go through can be different from the usual type of headache they experienced before pregnancy. The headaches range from a dull ache to a sharp throbbing pain in certain parts of the head. The painful areas may also either stay on one part of the head or they may be felt in different areas each time. Generally, pregnancy headaches don’t cause other symptoms to occur, so if the headaches come with blurry vision or dizziness, it’s best to have that checked out immediately to make sure the headache isn’t caused by any underlying condition.

Why Women Suffer from Pregnancy Headaches

The drastic surge in hormones is usually to blame for the headaches pregnant women experience. This usually happens in the first trimester, but subsides when the body has already adjusted to the dramatic increase in hormones. The headaches may reappear again towards the end of the pregnancy, mostly due to tension and bad posture caused by the extra weight these women have to carry around. There are other factors that may cause headaches. These are:

  • Caffeine Withdrawal. Staying away from coffee and other caffeinated beverages may be good for the unborn child’s health, but it can cause the body to react to the absence of caffeine in the bloodstream.
  • Fatigue and Stress. This is something all pregnant women experience an abundance of during this period, causing the rise in the amount of tension headaches they develop.
  • Hunger and Dehydration. With the baby absorbing a lot of what we eat and drink, pregnant women have the tendency to get hungry much faster than usual which can cause headaches related to low blood sugar, hunger and dehydration.
  • Sleeplessness. Most people get headaches when they lack sleep and there comes a point in the pregnancy where sleep is hard to come by, especially when a woman can’t find a comfortable position because of the belly bump.

When to Worry about Pregnancy Headaches

Headaches that occur late in the second or during the third trimester are a little bit worrisome, especially if they are accompanied by other symptoms like blurred vision, blind spots, or dizziness. This may be a sign of preeclampsia, or a rise in a pregnant woman’s blood pressure and the development of protein in the urine. This condition could escalate if left untreated, which is why a pregnant woman should see her doctor immediately if she feels these symptoms in the latter part of the pregnancy.

How to Prevent Headaches during Pregnancy

A lot of times, the headaches pregnant women experience can be avoided. More often than not, a simple lifestyle change can do the trick. The first thing a pregnant woman should do is to identify what food or activities trigger the headaches, and then decide to avoid them. This can be done by keeping a diary detailing what food was eaten and what activities were being done before the headaches occurred. It’s also good to include whether it was a tension headache or a migraine in order to narrow down the possible triggers. Another way to prevent these headaches from happening is to avoid stressful situations, eat healthier and get enough sleep every night.

Headache Treatment during Pregnancy

Treatment options for headaches become more limited during pregnancy. A lot of the pain medications used for treating headaches can be harmful for both the mother and the unborn child. These include over the counter medications such as NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, etc.). Most doctors recommend acetaminophen in low to moderate doses to treat a pregnant woman’s headaches. However, it is still best to avoid self-medicating and to consult a doctor to know for sure which medication is the best option during pregnancy.

The best way to manage headaches related to pregnancy is to avoid them. A pregnant woman should take care of herself not just for her unborn child, but for her own health and welfare as well. Pregnancy headaches are a normal part of the child bearing process, but it can be avoided by healthy living and avoiding stressful situations.

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