Headaches in Pregnancy
Written by Dr.M.D.Mazumdar, MD
For some women, headache is a recurring problem in normal pregnancy. It is one of the most common complaints. It can be a flare up of previous migraine attacks. Or headache may occur for the first time during pregnancy. But many women agree that it is more severe in intensity than headaches in the non-pregnant state.
Causes of Headache in Pregnancy
The exact cause is not known. The reason may be different in different women.
Hormonal SurgesAs soon as you become pregnant, the level of hormones like estrogen, progesterone and other hormones rises steeply. These hormones are needed to maintain the pregnancy and help the baby to grow. But the sudden hormonal surge may also be the trigger for migraine headaches.
Dilation of Blood vessels of the HeadSome researchers believe that the headaches can be due to the excessive dilation of the blood vessels of the head, caused by hormones like progesterone and oestrogen. These hormones are necessary to dilate the blood vessels of the uterus, thus increasing its blood supply and helping the baby to grow. But they can have a similar effect on the blood vesels of the head.
DehydrationDehydration can occur in early pregnancy due to low intake of fluids as a result of nausea in morning sickness. Vomiting can cause further lowering of the fluid level in the body.
Headache in Pregnancy
StressStress due to the sudden changes in the body as well as due to fatigue, backpain, leg cramps and a tension about the upcoming labor and childbirth can trigger off headaches.
Low blood sugar levelHeadaches due to a low blood sugar level, also called hypoglycemic headache is quite common, especially in early pregnancy. Hypoglycemia can occur due to a inability to take a proper diet in pregnancy due to nausea or a difficulty in absorption of nutrients due to indigestion and heartburn.
Lack of Sleep / InsomniaSleeplessness can occur due to a number of reasons - fatigue, backpain, leg cramps, the bulky uterus preventing a comfortable posture in bed, increased rate of passing urine at night - all these can contribute to sleeplessness in the pregnant woman.
Caffeine WithdrawalAs soon as a woman discovers that she is pregnant, she stops all caffeine containing food like coffee, tea, coke and chocolates. Since caffeine is a mildly addictive stimulant, a sudden stoppage can cause withdrawal symptoms like headaches and depression.
What you can do about Headaches in Pregnancy
For Tension or Stress HeadacheApply a warm pack on the back of the neck to help relax the muscles. Lie down in a cool dark room for some time. Get enough rest - try to sleep for at least 8 hours at night and take a short nap for 1-2 hours during the day. Get a massage. Massaging your shoulders and neck is an effective way to relieve pain.
For Sinus HeadachesApply a warm compress over the nose and eyes to help drainage from the sinuses. The warmth will also help decrease inflammation. A warm shower can also help to decrease sinus headaches.
Have your eyesight checkedA change in the power of the eyes can cause headache.
Increase your Intake of FluidsDehydration is a very common cause of headache and fatigue. Vomiting and nausea can decrease your fluid intake. Heartburn and indigestion can cause further dehydration by preventing absorption of fluids from the gut.
Hypoglycemic HeadachesTake frequent small meals - it will help to maintain your blood sugar level. It will also help in better absorption of food.
Sudden Caffeine WithdrawalSudden caffeine withdrawal in early pregnancy due to cutting down on your intake of tea, coffee or colas can cause headache. This will go away as your body adjusts to the decreased caffeine dose.
If the Headache is unbearableFor unbearable headaches, ask your doctor for medicines. Paracetamol can be safely taken in pregnancy. Ibuprofen and acetoaminophen should be avoided.
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