Headaches are the pits — especially when you’re pregnant and feel like you can’t take anything that works to relieve them. Before I got pregnant, I never really got headaches (unless it was from drinking too much wine the night before). But now, I feel like I get a headache at least once a day. And it’s super frustrating because my old reliable pain relief, Ibuprofen, isn’t allowed right now. Why do I have a constant headache while pregnant? And what can I do that will actually help this pain in the ... head?
Dr. Sherry Ross, an OB-GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California tells Romper, “Hormonal changes that happen in pregnancy, especially during the first trimester, make headaches more common — especially if you have a history of migraines.” However, she also adds, “A constant headache is not a normal symptom of pregnancy.” And unfortunately, headaches tend to happen in your first trimester and your third trimester, according to the American Pregnancy Association (APA).
Is your headache actually constant or does it feel like it’s constant because you’re not used to getting them at all? I’ll admit, mine aren’t constant, but daily. If they were constant and/or last more than six to eight hours at a time, Ross says this could potentially be a huge problem and to seek medical attention immediately. “If you experience a constant headache that lasts … despite rest and relaxation exercises, hydration, eliminating stressors, and acetaminophen, you should contact your healthcare provider. If you experience a severe headache with confusion, fainting, fever, speech and walking difficulties, nausea, and vomiting, you should contact your healthcare provider immediately. A tumor, stroke, blood clot, or meningitis are the most concerning medical conditions that can have devastating consequences," Ross warns.
According to the APA, other causes of your pregnancy headaches include your lack of sleep (thanks pregnancy insomnia), low blood sugar, stress, an increase in blood volume, and dehydration.
I thought chugging water to make sure I was hydrated would help my headaches, so I asked Ross why my 96 ounces of water didn’t touch my headaches. “Being well hydrated is important to help reduce frequent headaches, but if there is another cause of the headache, hydration will not help,” she says. Ways to actually help with your headache, according to Ross, include taking acetaminophen, Excedrin, and codeine. I’ve also heard that smelling peppermint oil helps, too, but I haven’t tried that one yet.
Other ways to avoid tension headaches, according to the APA, include getting plenty of exercise, practicing good posture, trying to get as much rest as you can, eating well-balanced meals, and applying cold or heat compresses to your head. The APA also recommended eating smaller meals more frequently throughout your day to keep your blood sugar levels maintained, and even asking your partner for a neck and shoulder massage.
As someone who has suffered a stroke in her 20s, I’m all about the paranoia when it comes to any type of headache, hence why I was so freaked out when I started getting so many once I got that positive pregnancy test. And you can guarantee if I start getting tingly arms, slurred speech, or weird droopiness in my face again, I’ll be at the ER faster than you can say stroke. But as long as my headaches don’t last for more than six to eight hours and I don’t have any other weird symptoms that go along with it, it seems to be pretty normal to have headaches during pregnancy, all thanks to those darn hormones.
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