Pregnancy Information Center

Information, Symptoms, Treatments and Resources


Headaches During Pregnancy: Your Symptoms Manual


What Headaches During Pregnancy Are

A headache is pain or discomfort in the head, scalp or neck. It's one of the most common symptoms experienced during pregnancy. Headaches are typical in the first and third trimesters. 

There are many different types of headaches, including migraines, tension headaches and others that aren't well defined. Knowing the type of headache you have can help with treatment.

Why Headaches During Pregnancy Happen

The reasons for headaches during pregnancy are unclear, but may include hormones, as well as fatigue, lack of sleep, nasal congestion, hunger, dehydration, allergies, caffeine withdrawal, poor posture or changes in posture, stress and depression.

If you suffer a headache during the third trimester that doesn't respond to the relief suggestions below, you should notify your healthcare provider to be evaluated for possible preeclampsia, a serious pregnancy condition associated with high blood pressure. 


How to Relieve Headaches During Pregnancy

  • Talk to your doctor about taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) for your headaches. Acetaminophen is considered safe in pregnancy when taken as directed.

  • Track your headaches so you can figure out what is triggering the pain. You can track your headaches using the I'm Expecting app (for iOS and Android). 

  • If you suffer from migraine headaches, avoid these common food triggers: aged cheese and cultured dairy products, artificial sweeteners, chocolate, fermented or pickled foods, nitrates, sulfites, MSG, and certain nuts, fruits and beans.

  • Avoid these common environmental triggers: bright or flickering lights, extreme heat or cold, loud noises and strong smells, such as tobacco.

  • Take a shower.

  • Apply a warm or cool compress to your forehead or base of your skull.

  • Maintain your blood sugar level. Don't let it go too low or spike. Eat small meals often rather than three large ones.

  • Drink lots of water.

  • Get some exercise.

  • Try relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga.

  • Get a massage.

  • Try acupuncture.

  • Sleep and rest.

  • If you suffer from migraines, certain prescription medications may help.

Call your provider if your headache worsens or doesn't improve, is different from the ones you usually experience or is associated with vomiting, blurred vision, seeing spots or swelling.
Benjamin A. Peterson/Fuse/Thinkstock
Reviewed by Elisabeth Aron, MD, MPH, FACOG on January 22, 2015.
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