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Migraines During Pregnancy – Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

4 min read

It is not unusual to suffer from headaches during pregnancy. In fact they can occur any time but are more prevalent during the first trimester. Migraine headaches are also common during pregnancy. There are chances that you may experience your first migraine headache during pregnancy. If you suffer from migraine headaches before getting pregnant, you may find these headaches getting worse, or you may find that they diminish during pregnancy. So don’t get stressed over them as there are many ways to control migraine headaches during pregnancy. Read on to know all about migraines during pregnancy and ways to deal with them.
pregnant woman headache

What Are The Symptoms Of A Migraine Headache During Pregnancy?

Migraines are caused due to the expansion of blood vessels in the brain. Anyone suffering from migraine tend to have a throbbing, constant and pulsating pain, generally on one side of the head. Other symptoms of this headache include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • “Pins and needles” sensation
What Are The Causes Of A Migraine Headache During Pregnancy?

The exact cause of a migraine headache is not known. But there are several factors that can cause a migraine headache during pregnancy. Some of the common causes are:

  • Changes in hormones: There are a lot of hormonal changes taking place in a body of a pregnant woman. The most significant reason for migraine that show up during the initial 12 weeks of pregnancy is the increase in level of pregnancy hormones. Estrogen is believed to play a role in causing migraines
  • Changes in blood pressure: Increased blood volume during pregnancy increases the quantity of blood being pumped through the blood vessels. This puts pressure on the walls of the blood vessels resulting in migraines
  • Lack of sleep: As we all know, lack of sleep can trigger headaches. Due to various discomforts associated with pregnancy, a pregnant woman does not get proper sleep and this can be a cause of migraine during pregnancy
  • Dehydration or hunger: During the first trimester, a pregnant woman usually suffers from nausea and vomiting due to morning sickness. In acute cases, she will not able to retain anything in her stomach which can result in dehydration and this can cause a migraine. Dehydration also brings down the blood volume, thereby bringing down the blood and oxygen supply to the brain, which is another reason that starts a migraine headache. Not having enough food can result in low blood sugar, which can trigger a migraine headache

pregnant woman with cold co

How Can A Pregnant Woman Treat A Migraine Headache?

Keep a migraine diary: In this headache diary a pregnant woman must record when the headache occurred, what “triggered” it, and how long it lasted. If she keeps a log of her headaches, it will help her doctor decide on what treatment will work best for her. It will also give her an idea on what causes migraine and triggers to avoid while she is pregnant. Common triggers may include:

Treatment For A Migraine Headache During Pregnancy

Even if you are prone to headaches and manage it well before pregnancy, things will not be that easy when you are pregnant. You will not be able to take over the counter medicines that are available to treat headaches as these medicines can harm you and your baby during pregnancy. But there are certain treatment options that will help you to deal with headache effectively even when you are pregnant. Some of them are:

  • Cold compress: Migraines can be treated by applying a cold compress on the head and at the back of the neck
  • Take rest: One of the most effective ways of dealing with headaches is to take rest. If you are suffering from a migraine headache, take rest in a dark and airy room, away from any disturbing noises. Taking a nap often helps to provide relief from migraine headaches during pregnancy
  • Stay well hydrated: Increase the intake of water. Drink atleast 12 glasses of water every day during pregnancy. Staying well hydrated is extremely important during pregnancy. If you get dehydrated it can cause a migraine headache
  • Acupuncture and massage therapy: Acupuncture is done by inserting thin, hairy needles into certain areas of the body, which triggers positive energy flow. Even chronic migraine headaches are found to get cured by this therapy. It is safe during pregnancy and effective only if you get it done through an experienced and genuine therapist. Massage therapy helps to reduce the stress in the neck and shoulders, thereby reducing migraine headaches
  • Take a shower: You can try taking a cold shower to get an instant relief from migraine headaches
  • Eat well: Try to eat well even if morning sickness and headaches bother you during pregnancy. Taking small quantities of food frequently helps to maintain the blood sugar levels. This will in turn provide relief from migraine headaches
  • Practice relaxation techniques: Practicing yoga, deep breathing exercises and meditation relaxes your mind and body and thus helps to keep migraine headaches at bay during the pregnancy
  • Medicines: Many of the anti-migraine medicines that are used to treat or prevent migraine headaches should be avoided during pregnancy. That is because they can harm the unborn baby and cause birth defects or lead to miscarriage during pregnancy. There are certain medicines like Acetaminophen that are considered low risk during pregnancy, if taken occasionally. Your doctor will prescribe them to you if no other means provide you relief and if you have acute migraine headaches that become a hindrance in your day to day activities
When Should I Seek Medical Attention?

Even though migraines during pregnancy are very common, it can also be an indication of some underlying issues like preeclampsia. Therefore, never neglect it. If your headache is very severe and appears all of a sudden, is accompanied by a fever, persists longer or worsens despite taking the steps explained above, returns frequently or you are experiencing blurred vision, consult your doctor without any further delay. It is important to keep a close check on the symptoms you experience as they could be an indication of a serious ailment that requires immediate diagnosis and treatment.

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