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Is It Normal To Have Headaches During Pregnancy

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Is It Normal To Have Shortness Of Breath In Pregnancy

Is it normal to have headaches during pregnancy?

Breathlessness is a common problem in pregnancy that may start in the first or second trimester. You are more likely to feel breathless if you have gained a lot of weight or are expecting more than one baby. Breathlessness can last until you are nearly ready to give birth. It wont harm your baby but can be annoying for you. Try these tips to help ease your breathlessness:

  • Keep in an upright position.
  • Do light exercise such as walking or swimming.

What Do I Do If I Have A Migraine In Pregnancy

If youve never had a migraine call your midwife, doctor or hospital maternity unit. Serious conditions like pre-eclampsia can be like a migraine, so although its unlikely anything is wrong, your healthcare team may want to see you.

If you have always had migraines, you may find that they get better during your pregnancy. But pregnancy can also change the nature of migraines, so if you have a migraine that feels different to what youve had before, call your midwife, doctor or hospital maternity unit.

How Are Migraine Headaches Managed In Pregnancy

If a woman has a history of migraine headaches, and there are no other health problems, migraines during pregnancy are not usually a concern. However, if a first-time migraine-like headache occurs in pregnancy, it is important to rule out any other type of condition that may be dangerous, such as bleeding in the brain, meningitis , or tumors. Further testing may be needed to determine the cause of the headache.

Treatment of migraines in pregnancy may include soothing and nondrug measures, such as cold packs, a darkened room, and sleep. Avoiding triggers, such as certain foods and stress, may also be helpful. Medications must be carefully chosen because many drugs pass through the placenta to the developing fetus. Small doses of caffeine and acetaminophen are generally safe, but only as advised by your doctor. Avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Drugs that can be used include acetaminophen, promethazine, and opioid pain relievers, such as morphine. However, limit the use of opioid pain relievers because of the potential for addiction of the mother and baby. Consult your doctor for more specific information regarding treatment for migraines during pregnancy.

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Read Also: How To Help With Sinus Headache

Vi Definitions Of Terms And Abbreviations

Definitions of Terms

Acute headache attack: An occurrence of headache for 4 or more hours with moderate to severe pain intensity.

Breastfeeding: The phase during which, according to the included studies, women were breastfeeding their infant.

Postpartum: The phase up to 12 months post-delivery.

Preconception: The phase during which women are attempting to become pregnant.

Primary headache: Conditions where the headache itself is the disorder.

Secondary headache: Headaches that are caused by an underlying disorder, such as stroke, venous thromboembolism, or pituitary tumors

Definitions of Abbreviations

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Why Do I Get Migraines During Pregnancy

Pregnancy Symptoms Headache

So what is it about having a bun in the oven that makesyour head hurt ? Blame it on thehormones. The very things that help your body keep your unborn baby healthy andnourished also up your headache quota. So does an increase in blood volume,which happens during the first trimester.

Other factors that lead toheadaches during pregnancy include:

  • Eating certain foods .
  • Not drinking enough water.

We look at everyone closely and assess theirsymptoms, notes Dr. Shadbehr. The first question we want to answer is, Isthis a primary headache or a warning sign of an underlying condition?

Recommended Reading: What Helps With Sinus Headache

Outlook For Headache During Pregnancy

Headache pain during pregnancy is common. You may have tension headaches during your first trimester of pregnancy. This may happen because of the many changes that youre going through in a short period.

Headache pain may happen in the second and third period of your pregnancy for other reasons. Some causes of headaches in your mid to late pregnancy may be serious.

High blood pressure is a serious cause of headache pain during pregnancy. You can have high blood pressure at any time in your pregnancy. You may not have any symptoms at all. Check your blood pressure at least once a day with a home monitor.

Tell your doctor if you have headaches at any time in your pregnancy. Let your doctor know right away if you have a personal or family history of migraine, high blood pressure, seizures or diabetes.

Take all medications and treatment exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Follow all diet and exercise advice carefully. See your doctor for all follow-up and regular check-ups. Most causes of headaches during pregnancy are treatable or preventable with the right care.

For more pregnancy guidance and weekly tips tailored to your due date, sign up for our Im Expecting newsletter.

Last medically reviewed on May 6, 2019

When To Call Your Healthcare Provider

Monique Rainford, MD, is board-certified in obstetrics-gynecology, and currently serves as an Assistant Clinical Professor at Yale Medicine. She is the former chief of obstetrics-gynecology at Yale Health.

Headaches are common during pregnancy. While they’re painful, they’re usually nothing to worry about. However, headaches in pregnancy can sometimes be a warning sign of a more serious problem like preeclampsiaa condition that involves high blood pressure.

Here’s what you need to know about the different types of headaches during pregnancy, how to recognize them, and what to do if you think your headache may be a sign of a dangerous complication.

Verywell / Laura Porter

Headaches are classified by what causes them and fall into two categories:

  • Primary headaches, where the pain itself is the only problem
  • Secondary headaches, where the pain is caused by another medical condition

About 40% of pregnant women report having headaches during pregnancy or postpartum . Most are primary headaches and are less worrisome.

However, research suggests that secondary causes of headaches may be more common among pregnant women than was previously thought. One study found that between 25% and 42% of pregnant women seeking treatment had a secondary headache.

During the second and third trimesters, triggers include poor posture, lack of sleep, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Recommended Reading: What Do Sinus Headaches Feel Like

Is It Common To Have Pregnancy Second Trimester Headaches

Headaches are a common pregnancy symptom. Researchers say that 39% of pregnant and postpartum women have headaches.

Headaches tend to be worse in the first trimester and improve during the second and third trimester. But some women still get headaches in their second trimester. About 4% to 8% of women say their pregnancy headaches get worse after the first trimester.

Common Types Of Pregnancy Headaches

Headaches During Pregnancy: When to Worry | Parents

There are many different types of headaches you may experience while pregnant, and it isn’t always easy to tell which kind you have. Here, a few key differences:

Tension headaches are one of the most common kinds of headaches during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. They can feel like a squeezing pain or a steady dull ache on both sides of your head or at the back of your neck. If you’ve always been susceptible to tension headaches, pregnancy can make them worse.

Sinus headaches typically feel like pressure or pain in your cheeks, around your eyes, and in your forehead. They occur most often after you’ve had a cold or a respiratory infection. People commonly mistake migraine headaches for sinusitis if you’re getting more headaches but otherwise have been healthy, you might be having migraines. But if you’re feeling congested, you might have a sinus infection requiring treatment.

Cluster headaches are much less common, and experts aren’t sure if pregnancy affects the frequency or intensity of them. Cluster headaches are marked by sudden, severe pain usually around one eye or temple, sometimes with teary eyes or a stuffy nose. They tend to occur at the same time each day, often a few hours after falling asleep, over weeks or months.

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Headache And Migraine Remedies That Are Safe During Pregnancy

Most women deal with headaches at some point in their lives. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that one in five women had a severe acute headache or migraine in the previous three months. Additionally, migraines are more common in women than men approximately 18 percent of women have them compared to 6.5 percent of men.

Because headaches and migraines are so common, its probably no surprise that many women deal with them during pregnancy. For the majority of pregnant women, occasional headaches or migraines are no cause for alarm, and most standard treatments are safe. However, suffering a severe headache at key times during or after pregnancy can indicate a serious medical emergency.

Headache As A Preeclampsia Symptom

When a headache during pregnancy is accompanied by dizziness, blurred vision, or blind spots, it’s time to call your obstetrician or healthcare provider.

These could be symptoms of serious complications, such as preeclampsia, a condition that usually occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy. Preeclampsia can damage organs like the liver or kidneys and lead to a low number of platelets, cells in the blood that are important in the clotting process.

One study found that pregnant women with high blood pressure and a headache were 17 times more likely to suffer severe complications, like preeclampsia.

Besides high blood pressure , other signs and symptoms of preeclampsia include:

  • Swelling, usually in the feet, legs, face, and hands
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Nausea and vomiting

Pregnant people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes have a two- to four-fold risk of preeclampsia.

Some people with preeclampsia develop a headache that resembles a migrainea throbbing headache with nausea and/or a sensitivity to light or sound. This is another cue to contact your healthcare provider right away, especially if you don’t normally get migraines or the pain is different, more intense, or longer lasting than the headaches you usually get.

If preeclampsia is suspected you will likely be sent to the hospital for further evaluation and treatment.

Headaches Healthcare Provider Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next healthcare provider’s appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Also Check: What Causes Pounding Headaches While Sleeping

When To Worry: Headache During Pregnancy

For a study published in the journal Neurology, doctors at Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, N.Y., analyzed the medical records of pregnant women with headaches over a five-year period. “We studied a large number of pregnant women presenting with severe headache attacks to the emergency and hospital setting,” the study’s lead author, Matthew S. Robbins, M.D., says. “We found that over one-third of the patients we evaluated had headache as a symptom of a separate underlying condition such as preeclampsia, rather than a more benign cause of headache such as migraine.”

Headaches have already been known to be associated with preeclampsia. But the researchers also found other factors in the women who went on to be diagnosed with the condition. Those women who had high blood pressure in addition to a headache were 17 times more likely to have preeclampsia than those who didn’t have high blood pressure. And women who didn’t have a previous history of headaches were five times as likely to have an underlying condition. Knowing this can help doctors decide when to raise the red flag. “The presence of these factors in such patients may lead doctors to order diagnostic tests, such as a brain MRI, and monitor the patients closely for further signs of preeclampsia,” Robbins says.

What Causes Headaches During Pregnancy

Pregnancy And Migraine Headaches

The primary culprits are pregnancy hormones, though there are many other causes of headaches during every stage of pregnancy. This type of pain can have lots of triggers, which means it can come on at any time. Some common causes:

  • Hormones: Headaches are often an early sign of pregnancy and tend to begin during the first trimester when your hormone levels surge and blood volume increases.
  • Trigger foods: Certain foods like cheese, chocolate, dairy and processed meats like bacon can trigger a headache in any trimester. Women who drink less caffeine in pregnancy may get withdrawal headaches.
  • Sinus congration: If youre suffering from sinus congestion, a runny nose or allergies , a headache may accompany these symptoms.
  • Dehydration: The dehydration that often goes hand in hand with nausea and vomiting can also cause your head to throb.
  • High blood pressure: After week 20 in pregnancy, severe headaches may be related to high blood pressure. This may raise your risk of a number of pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia and premature delivery, so it’s important to talk to your doctor if you notice this symptom.

Other causes can include:

On the bright side, at least for those already prone to migraines: Surging hormones during pregnancy might actually make those less-than-pleasant headaches less frequent.

Recommended Reading: How To Cure Sinus Headaches

What Causes Migraine Headaches During Pregnancy

Migraine headaches seem to have a genetic component, which means they tend to run in families. That said, theres usually a triggering event that unleashes them. One of the most common triggers at least for women is fluctuating hormone levels, particularly the rise and fall of estrogen.

Moms-to-be who get migraine attacks tend to experience them most often in the first trimester of pregnancy, when hormone levels, including estrogen, havent yet stabilized.

An increase in blood volume, which is also common in the first trimester, can be an additional factor. As blood vessels in the brain expand to accommodate extra blood flow, they can press against sensitive nerve endings, causing pain.

Other common migraine triggers, whether youre pregnant or not, include:

I Background And Objectives For The Systematic Review

Headache, one of the most common symptoms in the general population, is also common during pregnancy. Primary headache refers to conditions where the headache itself is the disorder. In contrast, secondary headaches are caused by an underlying disorder, such as stroke, venous thromboembolism,1,2 or pituitary tumors.3,4 Therapy for secondary headache in pregnancy generally targets the underlying disorder, and is thus not the focus of this review.

Primary headaches that occur in pregnant women are classified into four types: migraine, tension headache, cluster headache, and other trigeminal autonomic cephalgias .5 Migraine is by far the most frequent type, accounting for about 90 percent of primary headaches in pregnant women.2 The lifetime prevalence of migraine disorder among pregnant women is approximately 30 percent.6,7 Other types of primary headache during pregnancy are rarer.8 Primary headaches can be pre-existing or can occur for the first time during pregnancy, postpartum, or breastfeeding. The stress of pregnancy and imminent infant care may exacerbate the frequency and/or severity of primary headaches. Migraine remains the most common type of both pre-existing and pregnancy-onset primary headache.

Recommended Reading: How To Cure Migraine Permanently

Conducting The Systematic Review

Criteria for Inclusion/Exclusion of Studies in the Review: See Study Eligibility Criteria in Section II.

Literature Search Strategies to identify primary studies for both Key Questions: We will search for primary studies in MEDLINE , The Cochrane Register of Clinical Trials, Embase, and CINAHL. Duplicate citations will be removed prior to screening. Searches will not have any date or language restrictions. Search strategies will include filters to remove nonhuman studies and articles that are not primary studies. The searches will include MeSH or Emtree terms, along with free-text words, related to pregnancy, postpartum, breastfeeding, headache, migraine, tension headache, and cluster headache. The searches will be independently peer reviewed. The search strategy for each database is included in Appendix A.

Searches will be conducted in the registry for unpublished study protocols, unpublished study results, and ongoing studies. The reference lists of relevant existing systematic reviews will be screened for additional eligible studies. Additional articles suggested to us from any source, including peer and public review, will be screened applying identical eligibility criteria. Non-English language articles will be screened and data extracted either by readers of the relevant languages or after translation via Google Translate , if possible.

All searches will be updated upon submission of the draft report for public review.

How Can I Treat A Headache In Pregnancy

3 things you should know about headaches during pregnancy

If you have a mild headache, its safe to take paracetamol. Make sure you follow the instructions on the packet for how much you can take.

There are some painkillers you should not take while youre pregnant. These include tablets or capsules that:

  • contain added caffeine
  • contain codeine
  • are anti-inflammatory, like ibuprofen or aspirin.

Some women may be advised to take a low dose of aspirin as a treatment if they have had miscarriages before or they are at risk of pre-eclampsia. This will be prescribed by a doctor. Aspirin should not be taken as treatment for a headache.

Try to take the lowest dose of paracetamol that works and for the shortest amount of time. Your midwife, GP or pharmacist can give you more advice if the pain is ongoing and doesnt go away with paracetamol.

Find out more about drugs and medicines in pregnancy.

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When Should You Worry About Headaches During Pregnancy Ob

Nausea. Fatigue. Hormonal acne. Pregnancy is a wonderful thing, but it comes with some not-so-nice symptoms that can make it a little less blissful along the way. For some women, headaches can seem to pop up out of nowhere. They’re usually just another normal symptom, but when are headaches during pregnancy something to worry about?

Heather Levin, MD, board-certified OB-GYN and maternal fetal medicine specialist at Northwell Health, tells Romper in an interview that whether headaches are normal or new for you, its important to bring them up with your doctor. They can help determine how serious the problem is. Headaches during pregnancy should always be discussed with your doctor. Headaches that are mild or self-limiting are generally of less concern than severe, persistent headaches, she explains.

Headaches are very common, particularly in the first trimester of pregnancy. Commonly, first trimester headaches tend to be either migraines or tension headaches. The cause for this early pregnancy increase isnt always clear but is likely multifactorial, due to the rapid change in hormones of early pregnancy, nausea and dehydration, stress and poor sleep, and dietary changes, like a decrease in caffeine intake, Peter Kim, MD, an OB-GYN at SCL Health Central Park OB-GYN tells Romper.

For women who experience migraines regularly, Kim actually finds that pregnancy seems to give them a bit of a break.

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