The first trimester of pregnancy isn't always the most enjoyable time for expecting moms. Some women deal with terrible nausea, others experience awful bloating, and some are bothered by aggravating headaches. If you fall into that last category, you should know that there are tons of safe and effective first trimester headache remedies that can bring you some relief.
Pregnancy headaches can be triggered by many different things, according to Dr. Angela Bianco, an OB-GYN and maternal-fetal medicine specialist who specializes in high-risk pregnancies in the Mount Sinai Health system. “It’s important for women to think about when headache occurs, and what precipitates it,” she tells Romper, in order to figure out the best way to fight it.
Sleep deprivation and stress are just two common causes of first trimester headaches, according to Dr. Bianco, and the dreaded morning sickness can be a trigger, too. “For some women pregnancy is a very stressful time in their life… It can be fraught with very high stress levels, and stress can precipitate or exacerbate headaches." She adds, "Many patients have sporadic and intermittent nausea and vomiting with related relative dehydration, and that can also cause headaches.”
No matter what the cause is of your cranial discomfort, one of these five simple solutions could make a major difference for you.
Get More Sleep
If a lack of sleep is contributing to your headaches, you could consider taking melatonin, which Dr. Bianco says is safe to use in pregnancy. She says pregnancy hormones can throw off a woman's circadian rhythms and disrupt their sleep cycle. Melatonin, the so-called "sleep hormone," helps re-set those rhythms and let your body know that it's time to nod off, according to Healthline.
Try A Bit Of Magnesium
Another option Dr. Bianco suggests is magnesium. “Magnesium can be used to treat [a] headache and also help with sleep," she says, because it works as a natural muscle relaxant. It can also prevent the uterus from contracting prematurely, according to BabyCenter. However, magnesium deficiency is rare, the site reports, so if you are curious about finding out if you're running low, or if it's safe for you specifically to take an additional supplement during pregnancy, have a chat with your doctor. You should also check the label of your prenatal vitamins (if you're taking them) and make sure magnesium is not already included if you're considering supplements.
For headaches linked to dehydration caused by vomiting, you'll need to make sure you drink water frequently. As dietician Sara Haas, RDN, wrote for BabyCenter, "the Institute of Medicine recommends that pregnant women drink about 10 8-ounce cups of water or other beverages each day." You'll also want to talk to your doctor about getting your morning sickness under control — the Mayo Clinic noted that women can try natural nausea remedies like vitamin B-6 or ginger, or you may need a prescription medication.
If you can't seem to kick the nausea, it's important to replenish what your body is flushing out. Dr. Dawn Marcus, neurologist and author of 10 Simple Solutions to Migraines advised on Sharecare that you can "drink small amounts of cold, clear, and carbonated liquids between meals" and to replenish electrolytes with beverages like Gatorade and Pedialyte.
Consider Over-The-Counter Meds — Carefully
Some over-the-counter pain meds can be helpful — but you'll need to be careful about what you're taking, and when. “Generally speaking, occasional use of Tylenol is fine during pregnancy,” Dr. Bianco says. But she warned about the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen. They can be used sparingly in the first trimester if you can't get any headache relief otherwise, but are not to be used in the third trimester because they can potentially harm your developing baby. Have a chat with your doctor on approved medications for headaches, just to be on the safe side. Especially if you have any complications (like high blood pressure), they will likely have a preference of what you should or shouldn't take.
Relax — No, Really
Moms-to-be experiencing lots of stress should prioritize making time for self-care, according to Dr. Bianco. "We recommend sometimes speaking to a therapist or trying other relaxation techniques, meditation, listening to relaxing music, things like that.” Dr. Jelena Pavlovic, a neurologist for Montefiore Health System, agrees that slowing down can sometimes be a very effective remedy. “Treatment doesn’t have to be taking a medication. Treatment can be, you know, ‘I feel a headache coming on… I’m going to take 20 minutes and you know, chill’ and do a little bit of bio feedback or do a little bit of relaxation, and then the headache subsides," she tells Romper.
Enjoy Some Caffeine
One of simplest headache treatment may also be one of the most enjoyable. “We don’t want women having an excessive amount of caffeine, but for instance a cup of strong coffee at the time of headache onset can be curative,” says Dr. Bianco. A bit of caffeine as a pick-me-up when you're headachy or tired is totally fine, no matter what trimester you're in.
Pregnancy headaches may make you miserable at times, but there are so many ways to fight them. And as Pavlovic notes, headache prevention may be the best remedy of all. “It starts with sleep, hydration, taking care of yourself.”
While run-of-the-mill headaches are one thing, full-blown migraines can be quite another. There's actually some good news for pregnant women who suffer from migraines, however. Pavlovic says women who deal with migraines typically get a major break from them during pregnancy. “About 50 to 80 percent, depending on what study you read, of women experience a reduction in their migraine attacks during pregnancy," she says. And for once, your hormones are actually to thank. "Fluctuations in estrogen are known to be a potent trigger of migraines,” Pavlovic says, but your estrogen levels remain stable when you're pregnant and even into breastfeeding.
Dr. Angela Bianco, OB-GYN and maternal-fetal medicine specialist in high-risk pregnancies, Mount Sinai Health system
Dr. Jelena Pavlovic, neurologist, Montefiore Health System
Editor's note: This post has been updated from its original version