Headaches in pregnancy are fairly common. Pregnant women are under both physical and mental stressors, and many headaches are caused by stress. In addition, women who got migraines before pregnancy have an increased risk of having them during pregnancy. The problem with headaches during pregnancy is that you can't do too much about them.
The following pregnancy tips are natural and chemical ways to relieve headaches in pregnancy. You should always consult with your care provider about headaches during pregnancy, especially if you are getting many headaches. Often, headaches during pregnancy are not signs of a specific pregnancy complication, but they may indicate that things are not going well; a headache may also be a symptom of a complication unrelated to your pregnancy. If you suddenly get an intense headache combined with vision changes, swelling of extremities, pain in your abdomen and/or weight gain, contact your care provider as these are signs of preeclampsia.
Try relieving headaches during pregnancy using one of the following methods:
- Tylenol. Pregnant women can take Tylenol for headache relief, but it has to be regular strength and not extra strength. The effects of Tylenol on pregnancy have not been fully determined and some studies link overuse of Tylenol during pregnancy (more than 4 grams in 48 hours) with birth defects and complications. Because of this, experts recommended that pregnant women take Tylenol rarely. Try to use Tylenol as a last resort for a stubborn headache that won't go away.
- Aspirin and aspirin products (Advil and Ibuprofen) are not to be taken in pregnancy for headache relief because they may affect an unborn baby's heart, reduce birth weight, and have other dangerous effects on the unborn baby. In addition, taking aspirin late in pregnancy can cause excess bleeding and/or clothing issues, causing a huge complication during delivery. Like Tylenol, the effects of aspirin and aspirin products during pregnancy have not been fully determined.
- Peppermint essential oil. Peppermint oil is great for relieving headaches. Simply inhaling it will often get rid of headaches within fifteen minutes to half an hour. No essential oils (including peppermint oil) should ever go directly onto the skin unless they are diluted by a carrier, base or vegetable oils (not the kind you cook with), unless you know exactly what you are doing. An example of a carrier oil includes almond oil, jojoba oil and sesame oil. Most essential oils are too strong to go on our skin and can cause allergic reactions. While quality essential oils are a little more expensive, they will work better than their cheaper counterparts. Most health food stores/organic food stores sell essential oils.
- Stressors. Headaches are often caused by stress in our lives, so you need to focus on good keeping your stress level as low as possible. If work is asking too much of you, consider going on disability. If you are struggling to keep up with childcare and chores around the house, ask a family member, friend or antepartum (before birth) doula to help out. If life itself is overwhelming, take some time for yourself every day. Take up meditation, take a warm (not hot) bath, get a massage or start yoga to decrease your stress.
- Look at your life. Are you listening to your body? Are you getting at least eight hours of sleep a night? Do you still feel tired after getting eight hours of sleep? If so, you may want to increase your sleeping time to nine or ten hours. Relieving headaches during pregnancy may be as simple as getting more rest.
Do you exercise? It is recommended that pregnant woman get thirty minutes a day of light to moderate aerobic exercise (though you should talk to your care provider about exercise if you weren't exercising before you got pregnant). Good exercise during pregnancy includes walking, cycling, swimming and yoga. If you are exercising and feel exhausted, light-headed, get too hot or short of breath, discontinue exercise and contact your care provider.
Are you getting enough quiet time/rest? If you feel constantly tired, are you lying down during your lunch break or after work? You don't have to sleep--just put your feet up with a novel or a television remote. Consider going on disability if you feel constantly exhausted or like your body can't keep up with your daily demands.
- How are you eating? Are you eating smaller, balanced meals to keep up your blood sugar levels and decrease the risks of headaches? Have you cut headache triggers from your diet? Common triggers include chocolate, yogurt, coffee, citrus fruits, peanuts and sour cream.
- Ask what kind of headache you have. If you have a sinus headache, applying a warm compress to your nose and beneath your eyes may help. If you have a tension headache, a warm or cold compress around your shoulders may ease it.
- Acupressure. While acupressure may be helpful with headaches, it is not recommended you perform acupressure on yourself or without adequate knowledge of acupressure points. Some acupressure points can actually cause labor to begin. If you wish to use acupressure during pregnancy to alleviate headaches, a professional acupressure therapist is probably your best bet--though it may be costly.
We hope this information helps you learn how to relieve headaches during pregnancy and that your overall health will be great during your entire pregnancy.