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Headaches During Pregnancy

How to Get Pregnant

Headaches during pregnancy are a fairly common occurrence that can be quite troublesome, especially in the first trimester. Knowing what type of headache, how to best treat it, and whether these headaches are a cause for follow-up care are important.

Tension Headaches during Pregnancy

Tension headaches are the most common of the headaches that can occur during pregnancy. Tension headaches feel like a squeezing pain, or a steady, dull ache on either, or both sides of the head, or on the back of the neck. Pregnant women who have a higher susceptibility to these headaches are women that have experienced them before pregnancy.

The Cause of Tension Headaches during Pregnancy

The actual cause for tension headaches during pregnancy is unknown, although it's likely, at least in part, to be because of fluctuating hormones. Other possible reasons include lack of sleep and fatigue, sinus congestion, allergies, eye strain, dehydration, hunger, depression and stress. Some women, after they realize they are pregnant, quickly reduce or eliminate caffeine from their diets, resulting in 'crash' headaches.

How to Treat Tension Headaches during Pregnancy

Acetaminophen is generally safe when taken as directed, but most other headache medicines, such as aspirin, ibuprofen and prescription medications, are not recommended for pregnant women. Consult your physician if you start having a high number of tension headaches, which could be a sign that something else is going on. Keep track of your headaches using a headache diary, rating the frequency, length, intensity, as well as the method of treatment.

Migraine Headaches during Pregnancy

Migraines are another common type of headache during pregnancy. Like tension headaches, those most likely to experience migraines while pregnant are women who experienced them prior to pregnancy. About 15% of women experience their first migraine during the first trimester of pregnancy. Migraines cause moderate to severe throbbing pain, usually on one side of the head. If left untreated, they normally last 4-72 hours.

How to Treat Migraine Headaches during Pregnancy

Because most migraine medications are not recommended for pregnant women, it is sometimes more difficult to get relief and acetaminophen may not be enough. If you're having frequent migraines, consult your doctor to see what they recommend. In some cases the benefits of some medications may outweigh any risks to your baby. Trying to determine triggers for your migraines, then eliminating them, may be your first and best option.

Headache Triggers

Finding what may be triggering your headaches may help to reduce or eliminate them. Some common triggers include foods that contain MSG, nitrites found in processed meats like bacon, hot dogs and salami, sulfites, which are used to preserve salads, artificial sweeteners, some beans and nuts, aged cheese and cultured dairy products, bananas, papayas, avocadoes and citrus fruits, and chocolate. Loud or excessive noise and strong odors are also possible triggers.

Getting as much information as you can about the type, intensity and triggers for your headaches, and finding out the best method of treatment, can help to relieve any stress you feel, in addition to the pain. Eliminating some of the stress will help eliminate part of the cause for your headaches!