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Headaches during pregnancy: what you can do

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 159 views

There are many reasons for headaches during pregnancy and they are not always easy to identify. For example, hormonal changes, stress and dehydration during pregnancy can cause headaches. Here you can find out what other triggers there are, what you need to consider during treatment and why you should see a doctor if you have unusually severe headaches during pregnancy.

Headaches in pregnancy: possible causes

In principle, all types of headaches – such as migraines , tension or cluster headaches – can occur in pregnant women. Triggers can be:

  • hormonal changes
  • stress
  • overexertion
  • Tension in the shoulder and neck area
  • Too little movement
  • too little oxygen
  • wrong diet
  • Refrain from caffeine
  • Pregnancy diseases (pregnancy hypertension, preeclampsia , sinus vein thrombosis)

migraines in pregnancy

If you regularly suffered from migraines before pregnancy, the pregnancy-related hormonal changes can have a positive effect on the severity and frequency of the attacks. According to the German Migraine and Headache Society (DMKG), around 70 percent of women suffer from migraines during pregnancy, by the end of the third month at the latest. Then the increased estrogen levels unfold their relaxing effect. However, most women experience migraines again after childbirth due to the rapid drop in hormone levels.

Incidentally, pregnant women with migraines do not generally have a higher risk of complications during pregnancy.

Headaches during pregnancy: what to do?

Special caution is required when treating migraines or headaches during pregnancy. Don’t just take your usual headache medication. Pregnancy and child development can be adversely affected by painkillers. A medical consultation beforehand is therefore absolutely necessary. In general, you should try to relieve headaches during pregnancy with non-drug measures first.

Non-drug measures against headaches and migraines

You can try one of the following methods to banish headaches during pregnancy. Not all of the measures have been scientifically examined. Nevertheless, they can – individually differ – have a pain-relieving effect:

  • Relaxation methods (muscle relaxation, autogenic training, biofeedback )
  • Acupuncture, acupressure
  • massages
  • Essential Oils (Peppermint Oil)
  • warm foot bath
  • cold or warm washcloth on forehead

Medication for headaches and migraines

Pregnancy does not completely rule out drug treatment for headaches Sometimes, for the protection of the child and the well-being of the mother, it may be necessary to use painkillers to relieve headaches during pregnancy, for example if they are accompanied by severe vomiting. However, a consultation with the doctor is urgently needed before you take painkillers such as paracetamol , ibuprofenor acetylsalicylic acid (ASA). Which medicines are suitable for you depends, among other things, on which stage of your pregnancy you are in. Some medications, such as vasoconstrictive triptans (against migraines and cluster headaches), must not be taken by pregnant women, as they damage the baby’s physical development.

Even if you regularly take medication to prevent migraines, you must clarify the benefits and risks with your doctor during pregnancy. Some agents such as magnesium are considered harmless. For others, either the data is insufficient ( topiramate ) or there is a great risk to the development of the child and the course of the pregnancy (valproate).

Naturopathic remedies for migraines or headaches, such as butterbur, also pose a health risk for mother and child. They should therefore only be taken after consultation with experienced doctors.

Detailed medical advice about drug treatment is also necessary if you are plagued by headaches while breastfeeding. For example, almost all migraine remedies pass into breast milk.

Pregnant: prevent headaches

The following measures have a preventive effect so that headaches do not occur in the first place during pregnancy:

  • a lot of drinking
  • balanced, healthy diet
  • lots of exercise: sports, yoga
  • sufficient oxygen, fresh air
  • regular sleep-wake cycle
  • avoid stress
  • relaxation methods
  • massages

Beware of unusually severe headaches during pregnancy!

If you have an unusually severe, persistent headache during pregnancy (possibly with dizziness and nausea), you should consult a doctor immediately. The cause can be pregnancy-related illnesses, which must be clarified by a doctor and, if necessary, treated

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