For most women, pregnancy is a beautiful experience, especially once the hormone surges of the first trimester and the morning sickness die down, and they are finally able to relax and really enjoy their pregnancy.
This is the time that they can bond with their growing bump and of course, prepare themselves for the upcoming birth. Unfortunately for some women headaches are a common symptom during their pregnancy, and something that can last far beyond the first trimester.
Headaches at any time are an annoying occurrence but, especially, during the first trimester of a pregnancy is particularly challenging to deal with when many women prefer to take no medication at all unless prescribed by their medical practitioner.
If you are suffering from headaches in pregnancy, it is a good idea to discuss them with either your GP or your midwife as sometimes, they could be a sign that there is some other health problem going on.
Severe headache in pregnancy
A severe headache should always be a cause for concern, but more so when you are pregnant. A headache that is severe is one that causes you intense pain that makes it difficult to function day to day tasks.
It may also be a headache that is difficult to get rid of, and that doesn't seem to want to go away on its own. It may also be accompanied by blurred vision, changes in your field of vision or even dizziness.
If this is the case, then it is very important to see your doctor. Sometimes this type of headache can be linked to problems with your blood pressure. This is especially important once you have reached the 20-week mark in your pregnancy.
It is also a good idea to seek medical advice if you have migraines during your pregnancy; even if you are used to suffering with them when you are not pregnant. Migraines during pregnancy can increase the risk of a stroke, and while this is a rare occurrence, it is always better to seek medical advice to be on the safer side.
Constant headache in pregnancy
A constant headache in pregnancy can be really worrying. However, it is important to consider your stress levels. If you are in your first trimester, then the headache may be linked to a number of changes that are taking place in your life.
Morning sickness can make it challenging to eat, but it is essential to ensure that you drink plenty of water. The simple answer to the question 'can dehydration cause headaches in pregnancy?', is yes, being dehydrated, whether pregnant or not, will result in headaches.
Keep a bottle of water with you and remember to take little sips often. It is also important to try and ensure that you do eat and as healthily as possible, as this can really help you. If you have a window each day when you feel less nauseous, then make sure you eat a healthy meal, as this will help with your headaches.
If this does not help with your constant headaches, then it is worth speaking to your doctor so that they can check a few things like your blood pressure and a urine sample to run out any other health issues such as high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia.
Headache & dizziness in pregnancy
Many women experience some dizziness during pregnancy, especially as they reach the third trimester, and their balance begins to be a little compromised by their growing baby bump.
It is all too easy to get up faster than you should and be dizzy as a result. Remember to take things a little slower and don’t rush in order to avoid dizzy spells. If however, you have headaches and dizziness combined, then this may be a sign of something else and should be checked out. If you are worried about bothering your GP or midwife, then don't be.
They would rather see you and check your symptoms early on than leaving it until later when there may be more cause for concern.
When do headaches in pregnancy stop?
The good news is that while many women do suffer from headaches in pregnancy, for the majority of these women by the time they reach the sixth month of their pregnancy, the headaches will usually have stopped.
By this point in a pregnancy, many of your other symptoms such as morning sickness and hormone changes will have subsided, allowing you to enjoy the last few months of your pregnancy headache-free.
If you suffer from migraines when not pregnant, then you may even find that they vanish entirely during your pregnancy.
Unfortunately, some women will continue to struggle with headaches all the way through a pregnancy and even for a short while after birth. If this is the case have a chat with your midwife as, while you can take paracetamol during pregnancy, it is only advised in small doses, and not regularly. Other painkillers should be avoided unless prescribed by your GP who will discuss any risks with you.
What can cause headaches in pregnancy?
There are many reasons that headaches can occur, and while there is usually nothing to worry about they can be more of a concern during pregnancy. So, it is a good idea to keep an eye on your symptoms and seek medical advice if you have any concerns.
If you are wondering how early you can get headaches in pregnancy? Then the simple answer is that some women will get them as soon as they are pregnant. And in answer to the question when do headaches in pregnancy stop?
The answer will depend from one woman to another. However, these often subside as the pregnancy progresses. Neither your GP or your midwife will feel you are wasting their time, as sometimes headaches in late pregnancy can sometimes be a sign of an underlying medical issue that may need investigating and treating for your health and that of your baby.
If you have headaches in pregnancy in the second trimester, that do not go away, it is always a good idea to speak to a professional.
First trimester headaches
During the first trimester of your pregnancy, you may suffer from tension headaches. There are a number of reasons that this may take place, but the main one is that your body is going through huge changes. These changes can be all that it takes to trigger the pain of a headache and include:
- Changes in your hormone levels
- Higher blood volume
- Changes in your weight
- If your pregnancy was unplanned, you might also suffer headaches as a result of stress regarding the unexpected news
Headaches during the first trimester can usually be linked to several common causes:
- Nausea and vomiting – morning sickness is difficult to deal with and if you are struggling with this speak to your midwife
- Dehydration – often as a result of nausea and vomiting that occurs in early pregnancy
- Lack of sleep
- Withdrawal from caffeine – many women stop drinking caffeinated drinks when they become pregnant, and the withdrawal can be a struggle for the body which leads to headaches
- Poor nutrition – morning sickness can make it difficult for some women to eat properly, and if nausea lasts all day then they may find themselves sticking to a plain diet of “safe” foods such as crackers and ginger biscuits
- Low blood sugar levels
- Too little physical activity – many women struggle to keep up activity levels during the first trimester as morning sickness, poor nutrition and a lack of sleep make it difficult to keep up with day to day tasks. A birthing ball is great for exercise during pregnancy.
- Sensitivity to light
- Changes in vision
There are some foods that can cause headaches, and these "trigger foods" can vary from one person to another. They can also change during pregnancy, however, the common foods that you might like to look out for are:
Second and third-trimester headaches
The type of headaches that you may experience during the second or third trimester of your pregnancy may be caused by other things.
Many women have problems with headaches in pregnancy at 14 weeks, and for a few weeks after, this is due to significant changes in hormone levels that occur around this time. Other reasons to experience headaches in late pregnancy include:
- Posture – As your pregnancy progresses and your bump grows this can cause issues with your posture which can cause you to suffer from headaches
- Extra weight
- Too little sleep – some women can find it very difficult to get comfortable at night. A pregnancy cushion can often help with this
- Muscle strain and tightness
- High blood pressure
- Diabetes – some women develop gestational diabetes during their pregnancy, if your midwife suspects that you may have gestational diabetes, then you will be referred for tests, and if the results are positive a care plan will be worked out to keep you and your baby in the best health for the remainder of your pregnancy
If you’re wondering why you have a headache in pregnancy, the answer could be any of the above reasons. However, if you are at all worried about symptoms, do not hesitate to get advice from your midwife or doctor.
They should be able to figure out what may have caused your headache and give you advice and support with the appropriate course of action to take.