Headaches can be one of the most common afflictions encountered during pregnancy. Headaches may be experienced at any time during your pregnancy, although they tend to manifest themselves during the first and third trimesters.
To date, doctors have not been able to identify precisely why being pregnant triggers headaches. Some researchers point to the hormonal turbulence your body is going through, together with changes in your circulation and posture as being the prime suspects.
Expectant mothers may experience either a spike or a decline in the frequency of their headaches. However, frequent headaches later in your pregnancy could be an indicator of pre-eclampsia, a more serious condition. Tell your doctor if you are experiencing headaches.
What Causes 1st Trimester Headaches?
During your first trimester, your body experiences a massive surge of hormones and a corresponding increase in blood volume. Either of these two changes can prompt more frequent headaches. These incidences of headaches can also be exacerbated by:
- Lack of sleep
- Poor posture
- Low blood sugar
- Depression and anxiety
- Coffee withdrawal and
- Changes in your vision
What Causes 3rd Trimester Headaches?
Experiencing headaches during your third trimester could be connected more to tension and poor posture from additional weight gain. Frequent headaches during your third trimester may also be a symptom of pre-eclampsia a condition brought about by high blood pressure during pregnancy.
Headache Treatments During Pregnancy
It’s not recommended for pregnant women suffering from migraines to use migraine medicine during pregnancy. For less severe headaches during pregnancy doctors suggest treating your headache without resorting to drugs. Naturally, the best way to minimize the impact of headaches is to avoid them! Here are some simple tips for managing headaches:
Work on maintaining good posture, particularly during your third trimester
- Ensure you have plenty of rest and find opportunities to relax during the day
- Try relaxation techniques to reduce feeling stressed and anxious
- Exercise moderately and try pregnancy yoga classes
- Have a well-balanced, nutritious diet and eat regularly
- Constantly top your blood sugar levels up through eating more frequent, smaller meals and snacks
- Try using cold or heat packs or a warm facecloth over your eyes and nose for sinus headaches
- Take a bath or place a cold pack on the back of your neck for tension related headaches
- Get regular neck and shoulder massages
- Avoid headache or migraine trigger foods such as:
- Preserved meat
- Aged cheese
- Sour cream
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
Similarly, adjust your work or home environment where possible and avoid:
- Flickering or bright lights
- Loud sounds
- Strong smells
- Reduce your exposure to sources of blue light such as your computer, television, tablet or smartphone screens
- Excessive or sudden exercise
- Arguments or stress-related emotional triggers
When To See Your Doctor?
Contact your doctor if you experience frequent recurring headaches as this can be a precursor to pre-eclampsia, a more serious medical condition involving elevated blood pressure and kidney problems.
Similarly, make sure you contact your doctor if together with headaches, you are experiencing pain below your ribs similar to heartburn or you suddenly develop swelling in your hands, feet or face or if you are having problems with your eyesight.
Providing Headache Relief During Pregnancy
If headaches are related to muscle tension or posture, a spinal consultant operating out of well-equipped facilities such as The Brisbane Spine Clinic may help. Manual therapy provided by a trained clinician on the upper neck joints can frequently alter the pain pathway, alleviating headache symptoms.
A physiotherapy session may include a series of neck and shoulder massages, mobilization, gentle manipulation and simple exercises you can practice in your own home. Naturally, it’s important to consult trained professionals for treatment, such as the spinal consultants at our Eight Mile Plains clinic.
*Please note, content within this article is for educational purposes only and treatment and advice mentioned may not be suited for everyone. Please consult a team member at the Brisbane Spine Clinic or your General Practitioner for specific advice.