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Pregnancy Headaches: Causes and Remedies

Dr. Daniel Lee

Reviewed by
Dr. Daniel Lee

Pregnancy Headaches

Migraines and headaches during pregnancy are very common. Many women experience headaches before they are pregnant and sometimes see an increase once pregnancy occurs, while other women see a decrease in the frequency of headaches after the baby is conceived. One to two percent of migraine sufferers get their first pregnancy headaches or migraines during the first trimester, but as the second and third trimester come and go, their symptoms usually decrease. It’s important to know what causes or triggers pregnancy headaches, and what you can do to relieve or prevent them.

What Causes Headaches During Pregnancy?

The main cause of headaches during pregnancy is the increase in hormones. Estrogen can trigger headaches, and even migraines, because a pregnant woman’s estrogen levels shoot through the roof, especially early in the pregnancy. Other reasons can be:

  • Stress
  • Lack of Sleep
  • Dehydration
  • Sinus Congestion
  • Allergies
  • Hunger
  • Caffeine Withdrawal

Caffeine withdrawal, especially if the pregnant woman was a heavy coffee, tea, or soda drinker, can trigger severe headaches. It’s important to know that these pregnancy headaches will eventually become less frequent as your body becomes less dependent on caffeine.

Relieving Headaches During Pregnancy

The most important thing to do is to tell your doctor about all your pregnancy symptoms, especially your headaches and migraines. Your doctor may prescribe pain relievers and offer suggestions for decreasing the pain. It’s not always safe to take over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, as these can be just as dangerous as prescribed medication while you’re pregnant.

Another common way for women to relieve headaches during pregnancy is exercise, which is known to relieve stress. Massages are also great for relieving muscle tension, especially if performed by a professional.

Some herbal remedies, such as chamomile tea, can help you relax, especially during the evening hours when it’s almost time to lie down and sleep. A good night’s sleep and time for your body to rest throughout the day are important when trying to reduce pregnancy headaches, stress, and fatigue. If a headache or migraine does come on without warning, try putting a warm cloth over your eyes and temples. If it’s a tension headache, do the opposite and place a cold pack or cold cloth on the back of your neck. This will help to reduce the tension. Again, communicating with your doctor is key, as your doctor can help reduce the pain in a safe way.

[Page updated April 2016]