Headaches get the best of us, and they're no fun for anyone. But, for a pregnant woman, headaches added onto the several other not-so-fun pregnancy symptoms is yet another pain thrown into the mix.
Headaches are one of those weird body symptoms that can be caused by so many different things, that it can be difficult to pinpoint what started it, or why they're happening so frequently. Plus, they can be tough to explain to a doctor because they can occur in several different parts of the head, range from mild to severe in pain, and can be dull or sharp.
Although most headaches during pregnancy aren't serious, there are times that it could be. So, it's important for pregnant women to understand what could cause them during pregnancy so they can better understand how to prevent them - or treat the bigger picture.
Once a headache's cause is pinpointed, it's much easier to prevent them in the future, since we can understand what to do - or what to avoid - to keep them from reoccurring. Pregnant women, especially, should not have to deal with extra pains that can affect their overall mood and strength.
If headaches are becoming frequent and persistent during a pregnancy, it's likely that there is an underlying cause, some of which can be treated with simple lifestyle changes. The following things are the most common triggers of headaches in pregnant women, and if any are becoming worrisome, it's time to get to the doctor.
12 Feeling Mentally Stuffed
Stress is, perhaps, the most common trigger of headaches in any person. But, pregnant women have a whole new slew of stressors to deal with, from financial worries to anxiety over delivery, and everything in between. Although stress is normal, it should be monitored closely, especially during pregnancy.
Unfortunately, stress has the power to cause some monstrous headaches. Known as a tension headache, a small stressful situation can trigger the pain. Once you start feeling the pain, your body can actually become more stressed, causing more severe pain. You may start feeling pain in the front, sides, or top of your head, start having trouble focusing, and become irritable.
To prevent tension headaches during pregnancy, it's important to find ways to relax when you need to. Take a short walk on your break from work, or ask your boss for a few quick 5-minute breaks during the day. When you get home, watch your favorite TV show or read a book. The more time you give yourself to relax, the calmer you'll be, and you'll be less prone to headaches.
11 Caffeine Withdrawal
One of the most difficult things for pregnant women to give up is caffeine. Switching from caffeinated beverages, like soda, coffee, and tea, to non-caffeinated cold-turkey is no easy task. On top of having to give up their favorite drinks, pregnant women often deal with headaches as a result.
When you switch from drinking caffeinated drinks daily to having none at all, your body goes through some pretty serious withdrawals. Caffeine acts as a stimulant, which means it provides extra "energy" to the nervous system. Once you take that away, your body begs for it to come back, since your nervous system starts to depend on it.
After you quit caffeine, depending on how much you used to drink each day, you may see symptoms for a day or more. Typical symptoms include mild to severe headaches, anxiety, depression, irritability, trouble focusing, light-headedness, and even nausea.
Try getting some extra sleep to help you feel more energized. You can also switch to decaf coffee or decaf herbal teas to enjoy the same flavors you once did.
10 Falling Behind On Sleep
Pregnant women are especially prone to sleep troubles, since it can be extremely difficult to find comfortable positions with a growing belly, kicks from baby, nausea, a full bladder, and more. A lack of sleep during pregnancy can have some potentially severe consequences, like birth complications. Lack of sleep has been linked to low birth weight and pre-term birth in pregnant women.
A pregnant woman's lack of sleep can also trigger some severe headaches. When you consistently have less sleep than you should, your body secretes extra arousal proteins, which trigger the nervous system. This causes your body to produce headaches more easily than it would if you were getting enough sleep.
Try your best to make yourself comfortable in bed. Use a pillow between your legs to support your hips, and another to support your belly. Drink plenty of water during the day, but avoid liquids about three hours prior to bedtime for less bathroom breaks.
9 Not Being Able To Keep Water Down
If you're frequently nauseous or vomiting during your pregnancy, it's tough to force yourself to stay hydrated. Sometimes, even water comes back up. If that's the case, you still need to try to drink as much water as possible, using slow sips.
Dehydration can also cause some serious headaches, and headaches are one of the first signs of dehydration, along with fatigue and dark urine color. Once you start to become dehydrated, your brain tissues lose water, since the brain is made up of 80% water. This causes your brain to shrink away from the skull, triggering a headache.
Fortunately, once your body starts getting enough water, the headaches should subside quickly. Dehydration during pregnancy can cause some serious complications to both you and baby, so it's important to talk to your doctor if keeping water down is a problem. You can also try drinking water between meals, instead of with them, to decrease indigestion that could be upsetting your stomach.
8 Dealing With A Cold Or Allergies
Pregnancy can cause some weird changes in your body, like ailments you've never had before. Allergies and sinus congestion are two things that pregnant women are more prone to during pregnancy.
That's because your pregnancy hormones have a strange way of making things swell in your body - including your nasal passages. When they swell, your mucous membranes also swell, and then soften. This is what causes a stuffy nose. And, of course, when your nose is stuffed up, your head often feels the same way.
Try using a humidifier in the room you're in. This will help moisten the air so your nose can drain better, rather than dry out. It can also help clear your airways so you can breathe a little better. You should also ask your doctor about adding some extra Vitamin C to your diet, and any over the counter medications that are safe for you to take for some relief.
7 Bad Eating Habits
You're eating for two, so why not go all out, right? Wrong. Even though you're pregnant, you still should try your best to eat healthy, rather than use it as an excuse to eat everything you want (although, you absolutely deserve some treats once in awhile!).
Bad eating habits in pregnant women are one of the leading causes of headaches. Eating too fast, too much at one time, not eating enough, or eating unhealthy foods can all trigger headaches. In fact, one of the most-recommended pieces of advice from doctors for those who suffer from chronic headaches is to eat a well-balanced diet.
Eating irregularly can spike and plummet your blood sugars, which can cause a variety of symptoms, including headaches. Eating unhealthy, sugary, or high-carb foods works in much the same way.
Try to work toward 5 smaller meals per day, with small snacks in between, to keep your blood sugar at an even level. Add plenty of fresh fruits and veggies to your diet, too!
6 Low Blood Sugar
Some pregnant women have problems with low blood sugar, with more severe cases leading to gestational diabetes. Those who take insulin shots are especially at risk for drops in blood sugar if they skip meals, eat too little at meals, or aren't eating regularly.
Low blood sugar can occur from poor eating habits, like eating a lot of sugary foods, eating irregularly, skipping meals altogether, or not eating enough. During pregnancy, some women have trouble staying on-track with meals, especially if they're often feeling nauseous.
Your brain needs a steady supply of blood sugars to function normally, so when it's thrown off, you can get a serious headache. If you're finding it difficult to stick to a steady, healthy diet while pregnant, ask your doctor for tips. If you haven't yet been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you might be, and it's important to get the required treatment as soon as possible, for both your health and baby's.
The dreaded pregnancy morning sickness, for some, is much more intense than just throwing up in the wee hours of the morning. Some pregnant women vomit throughout the day, for months on end, regardless of what they try to do to help their nausea.
Consistent vomiting takes a huge toll on the body, especially if your body is using a lot of force to throw up when there is little, if anything, in your belly. Some women may feel extremely dizzy or fatigued after vomiting, and some even suffer from popped blood vessels near their eyes.
It's no wonder, then, that frequent vomiting can cause headaches. Some of this could be due to dehydration from your body losing water, or low blood sugar if your body isn't giving you enough time to digest your food. But, headaches can also come from the tension put on your body when you throw up.
If your vomiting is consistent every day and you're finding it difficult to keep anything down - even water - then it's definitely time to see your doctor.
4 Unforeseen Medical Condition
Headaches can actually be a warning sign of a serious pregnancy complication, known as preeclampsia. Basically, preeclampsia is the medical term used to describe high blood pressure during pregnancy. The condition has several symptoms in addition to headaches, like severe swelling of the hands, face, feet, and ankles, rapid heartbeat, high protein content in the urine, and more.
Since preeclampsia causes high blood pressure, as well as other serious conditions that can complicate a pregnancy, those with preeclampsia are more at risk for headaches, even if they've never suffered from them before. It's basically your body's way of telling you that something is off, since it's fighting itself to try to regulate your blood pressure, but unfortunately, losing the battle.
If you are suffering from severe headaches you've never had before, it's a good idea to get checked out by your doctor. He will likely take your blood pressure and ask for a urine sample to rule out preeclampsia as a cause.
3 Cabin Fever
Staying indoors all day, every day, isn't good for anyone. Not only does inside air contain less oxygen than fresh air, but it also harbors germs and doesn't give you the essential mood lifting abilities that fresh air does.
Fresh air can help you concentrate better, increase circulation, make you feel rejuvenated and motivated, increase your memory abilities, and even put you on a better sleep schedule. If you're not getting enough oxygen to your brain because you're sleeping or living in rooms without adequate ventilation, your head will tell you so - by triggering a headache.
So, if you're pregnant and experiencing headaches that you can't quite figure out the cause of, try taking a breather outside. Go for a 10 minute walk around the neighborhood, or even just take a relaxing break on your porch swing. Ask for a quick break from work, as needed, to go catch a few minutes of fresh air.
2 Hormonal Changes
Estrogen plays a big role in migraines, which is why the nasty headaches tend to affect more women than men. When you're pregnant, your estrogen levels can increase rapidly, especially in the first trimester. But, they continue to increase throughout your pregnancy to help with things like milk production, grow the uterus, and maintain the uterus lining.
Unfortunately, these shifting hormones can significantly increase headaches or migraines in those who already experience them. They can also be intense in women who aren't usually prone to headaches. The high levels of estrogen can, essentially, over-excite the brain, causing too much stimulation for it to handle. What you feel is the result, as a headache.
Your doctor may be able to suggest some things you can do to relieve the symptoms of migraines or headaches from hormonal changes, or recommend a medication if the headaches are severe. For most women, plenty of rest, a good diet, and light exercise are good ways to alleviate some of the pain.
1 Bad Posture
It can be so easy for pregnant women to slouch. Imagine carrying several extra pounds all in one small location on the front of your body. It definitely takes a toll on a woman's neck and back, and sometimes it's just simply easier to slouch as mom-to-be stands or sits.
But, it's definitely not a good habit to start, because it can be very difficult to break. Think of all the extra strain you are putting on your body when you slouch. Your back stretches, your shoulders slump forward, and your neck moves forward.
It's not natural, and it could be causing your headaches from the strain it puts on your spine and the tensing of your muscles when you slouch. So, try your best to sit up straight. If necessary, lie down - it's much better than slumping over when you sit, so if laying down makes you comfortable, go for it!
Sources: AmericanPregnancy.org, Huffington Post, Medicine.net, WebMD.com, WhatToExpect.com