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6 Ways to Relieve Pregnancy Headaches

Posted by Melissa Melander on
pregnant woman with headache holding her head and belly

For those in the early stages of pregnancy, predominantly during the first trimester, several symptoms may arise. These might include nausea and morning sickness, fatigue, headaches, and sinus pressure. In this article, we focus our attention on headaches and the 6 remedies for pregnancy headaches that actually work.

Headaches during pregnancy are typically not a sign of alarm. However, they should be handled with caution if they are unusual, severe, or do not seem to go away. Inform your doctor if you are experiencing severe throbbing headaches and/or blurry vision, and take note of the frequency, intensity, and duration. This can be helpful for the doctor when evaluating your symptoms against other known complications. 

Preeclampsia diagnosis folder with stethoscope

Preeclampsia, a serious pregnancy complication, generally develops after week 20. If left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to seizures or premature delivery. Although a majority of patients have no symptoms, some identifiable symptoms include high blood pressure, headaches, and changes in vision. Reporting early about any headaches or blurred vision you are experiencing can help to thoroughly investigate and rule out any complications that may be associated with your headaches.

Just remember, there is no need to panic if you are experiencing headaches during pregnancy. Tension headaches, migraines, and other forms of common headaches can occur for no reason at all, and are not always a sign of a complication.

If you are experiencing unexplained headaches during pregnancy, there are ways to help alleviate that pain. But first, let’s take a look at some common explanations for headaches during pregnancy:

-Lack of sleep or exhaustion

-Lack of fluid intake and dehydration

-Strong perfumes/colognes

-Skipping meals

-Lacking sufficient vitamins (especially iron and magnesium)

In addition to making simple changes in your diet or lifestyle to target the above, such as making sure you allow yourself enough time for a good uninterrupted night’s sleep, let’s explore 6 treatments for unexplained pregnancy headaches that require no medication.

Pregnant woman laying down with pregnancy headache

1. Monitor Caffeine Intake

The rumor around town is that coffee should be avoided at all costs during pregnancy. But, this just isn’t true. It is actually safe to consume no more than 200mg of caffeine a day during pregnancy, or two 8oz cups of coffee.

With that said, if you were an avid coffee drinker prior to getting pregnant, then went cold turkey from day 1, or switched out your caffeinated coffee for decaf, you may not be doing your body a favor. This may be causing you unnecessary headaches due to the withdrawal of caffeine from your body.

With this in mind, consider sticking to drinking coffee within the 200mg caffeine limit, or decreasing your caffeine intake slowly over several weeks. You may also try brewing a pot of coffee with half decaf and half caffeinated coffee as well if you are used to drinking several cups a day. Just remember that 200mg of caffeine is equal to approximately 2-8oz. servings of coffee.

What to avoid: Coffee isn’t the only food/drink that contains caffeine. Chocolate and tea do as well. Click here to help you estimate and evaluate your caffeine intake to ensure you remain under 200mg a day.

2. Get a humidifier

Maybe you’ve never had sinus pressure before in your life until you became pregnant. Sinus problems are a symptom of pregnancy, but feeling congested all day with your nose running and your throat dry is no fun at all. A build-up of sinus pressure can also lead to headaches. A humidifier is a great addition to your nighttime routine and is perfect for releasing sinus pressure buildup.

You might also consider a therapeutic aroma diffuser such as this one, and add some essential oils to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Lavender is perfect for relaxation just before bed. During the daytime, you can also try a warm shower or warm bath, slowly breathing in the steam and just sitting back and relaxing. 

What to avoid: Not all essential oils are created equal during pregnancy. Lavender and Rose oil are great for aromatherapy during pregnancy; however, there are several others, including wintergreen and sage, that are not. Find a more complete list of safe and non-safe essential oils during pregnancy here

What to avoid: When drawing a bath, make sure temperatures aren’t too hot. Raising the body’s internal temperature above 101 degrees Fahrenheit can be dangerous while pregnant. This means the water should be warm, never hot.

Coconut and coconut water poured into glass

3. Drink Water!

During pregnancy, you actually need a lot more water than you normally do otherwise. This is an easy fix and should be the first thing you try when seeking headache relief. Try adding a lemon slice to your next glass of water to replenish any electrolytes lost from morning sickness or dehydration. Coconut water (stick to the all-natural, no added sugar options) is also a wonderful alternative, and it’s great for your skin and may also help avoid those pesky leg cramps!

What to avoid: Just remember to drink no more than one glass of coconut water a day, as it is extremely high in potassium!

4. Cooling eye mask

Maybe you’ve been straining your eyes while reading all those pregnancy and birthing books late at night - in time before the baby comes. But did you know that most headaches can be traced back to an inflammation of the muscles directly around the eye socket? Applying a cold compress to your eyes and forehead can provide headache relief and help you to relax. Check out the reusable EyeChill cooling eye mask. Just pop it in the freezer for 15 minutes and it’s ready for use. It fits snugly around your eyes and secures comfortably around your head for deep cooling headache relief.

Blue EyeChill cooling eye mask on women laying down

5. Get a Massage!

Neck pain and tension can be a common source of headaches. Maternity massages are a great way to relax, relieve tension and stress, while also bringing relief to your headache. There are also many at-home massaging options available, including neck massagers and acupressure mats. Perhaps even have your partner give you a shoulder massage - a great way for you both to bond with the baby.

6. Consider saying good-bye to contact lenses for a few months

Women who are pregnant are known to be more sensitive to light. Contact lenses can strain the eyes and dry them out, making your eyes even more sensitive to light. Consider exchanging your contact lenses for some properly fitted eyeglasses during pregnancy. Glasses are especially convenient when you need a some nap-time during those especially fatiguing days in the first and third trimesters. Or, on regular occurrence, after the baby is born and you are trying to squeeze in a bit of shut-eye during those three hours of baby nap time. With glasses, you won’t have to worry about accidentally falling asleep with them in!

What to avoid: Glasses that are too tight or too loose can strain the face and may be the culprit for further headaches. Glasses should be worn with updated prescription lenses and adjusted to fit on your face comfortably.

Pregnant woman holding belly and smiling

Not pregnant but want to know more about what factors may be causing your headaches and migraines? Check out these 3 Common Causes of Headaches and Migraines and discover what changes you can make to relieve those stubborn headaches.

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