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Headaches in pregnancy

You can't reach for the headache tablets, so how do you beat headaches in pregnancy?

Posted: 11 September 2007
by Laura Lee Davies

The changes to your body and your hormones in pregnancy, can often bring about headaches, but you can no longer rely on popping a few headache tablets to relieve the pain. Instead, you need to find more natural ways to ease headaches. If you're tired, feeling sick or heavily pregnant, this probably sounds like the last thing you need, but pain relief doesn't have to be a headache in itself.

What's causing your headache?
Try to think about what might be triggering your headache.
If being pregnant is causing you extra worry - for example for emotional, physical or financial reasons - then the stress might bring on headaches.
Are your headaches caused by a build-up of pressure in your head? Sinuses and a stuffy-feeling nose can bring on headaches and are part and parcel of the second half of pregnancy.
Are you feeling very tired or do you feel your body is not comfortably carrying your growing bump? As hormones work to loosen up your limbs for childbirth, backache can be a problem and it's easy to allow the tension to be transferred to the top half of your body in order to compensate for your middle being tired and achy. If you do start to take the strain on your top half, it's easy to over-stretch the nerves around your chest and neck. This can cause a pulling sensation along with your headache and can in extreme cases lead to very bad pain which focuses in your head.
Are you keeping snacks and water with you all the time? It's easy if you're busy, to forget you need to eat more regularly now. Getting hungry can cause headaches and/or dizziness, as can dehydration.

What can you do about your headache?
Trying to avoid the triggers for headaches is the first positive move you can take, where it is possible.

  • Stress headaches - Obviously you can't flick a switch and get rid of something that's worrying you, but think about what that problem is and try to share it with someone else. Map out a plan to deal with it as best you can or just take the time to make it a little project. For example, if you're worried about benefits and money, allocate a day or a time when you are going to find out more about what support you can get. Then, if the worry bubbles up again, make a note of any specific question and concern and box off in your mind that it will be looked into on that specific date.
    Think about the positives in your pregnancy and see this as your major task for the time-being. Try to delegate responsibilities where possible - from the mission to get the bedroom painted or to find the right pushchair, to arranging childcare or school pick-up for an older son or daughter. It might not seem much, but being able to tick a few things off your duties list will help.
    Additionally, if the stress is causing the kind of headaches brought on by tension in your neck, see below.

  • Sinus and pressure headaches - It is quite common to feel 'snuffly' in the second half of pregnancy because the increased blood supply in your body is affecting things seemingly as unrelated as the mucous membranes in your nose! Check out the ThinkBaby article Beat Pregnancy Snuffles.

  • Tension, aches and fatigue - You're pregnant so claim your right to have a lie down or an hour and half in front of a black and white movie on the sofa. Relaxing and taking your mind off things and the strain off your back and feet, can really help. (When lying down, make sure you support your bump properly if you're lying on your side, and spend a couple of minutes propping yourself with cushions until you feel fully supported, if you're sitting on a soft chair or sofa.)
    Try yoga. Even if you don't feel you're 'the yoga type', ante-natal yoga is more focused on your current condition and allows you time to think about just you and your baby. It can offer some good visualisation techniques to help you relax, and you won't be expected to pull your body into lots of complicated positions!
    If you are feeling very tense around your shoulders (stop for one minute, stand or sit still, drop your head gently in front of you and slowly drop your shoulders down just a little - do they feel bruised and achy?) then do the small stretch just described, or think about visiting someone for an aromatherapy massage. Find one linked to pregnancy groups as they will only use oils that are safe for you. Also, try little relaxing sit-downs at home, maybe burn some lavender oil and make time for a 20-minute chill-out every day.

  • Hunger headaches - Keep snacks you like with you all the time. You don't have to eat a lot, but grazing is a good idea. Also make sure you keep water with you. For a guide to drinking water, check out the ThinkBaby water article.

When the headaches don't go away
If you only get headaches occasionally or you can control them by relaxing, then you shouldn't worry. However, if you have tried the ideas above and you find your headaches are severe, persistent and/or regular, talk to your GP to elimate other possible causes.
If a headache coincides with fever or puffiness of the hands and face, call your doctor straight away.
If you suffer from migraines, you might find being pregnant alleviates the condition temporarily. Or you might find the changes to your condition make matters worse. Try where possible to avoid you known triggers and talk to your doctor in advance of any incident, to discuss what migraine medications are safe for you to continue taking in pregnancy.

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pain, yoga, relax, snuffly, migraine, head, ache, tension, nose, stuff, stress

Discuss this story

hiya, anyone out there got any advice for me,im 28 weeks pregnant with second baby,is it true that labour comes really fast with second,just really scary as with first i was only 4 hours.

Posted: 13/02/2007 at 09:25

hay everyone, just found out i'm having another baby six months after having my baby girl is this safe for my unborn baby???

Posted: 22/01/2008 at 15:04

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