Skip to main content

Are headaches normal during pregnancy? What you need to know

During your time of joy and anticipation for your little one’s arrival, you might encounter a few bumps along the way. The next nine months, give or take, are sometimes marked with morning sickness, swollen feet, odd cravings, and… headaches?

Thus, you might wonder what causes headaches during pregnancy and most importantly, how to deal with them. So, we present to you some possible causes, symptoms to watch out for, and of course, some safe remedies.

Related Videos

Are headaches normal during pregnancy?

Many women suffer from headaches during pregnancy, which is not out of the ordinary. Whether you’re experiencing an occasional tension headache or a migraine, this malady is quite common, especially during the first and third trimesters. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that they are bothersome. Fortunately, for each cause, you’ll find a remedy that’s safe for you and your baby.

What causes headaches during pregnancy?

During the first trimester, the changes that your body goes through contribute to more frequent headaches. With hormone levels fluctuating and your blood volume increasing, your head is bound to hurt.

As your pregnancy progresses, headaches can get worse due to a shift in posture that causes a sore neck and back. Also, other factors contribute to the cause such as:

  • Withdrawal from caffeine
  • Dehydration
  • Stress
  • Inconsistent sleep patterns
  • Low blood sugar

Overall, the bodily changes and dietary alterations seem to be the biggest contributors to headaches. Regardless of the cause, there are different avenues toward relief—all of which are safe for your baby.

Which medications are safe to use during pregnancy?

Pinpointing the cause is just the first step towards relief. Luckily, there are a few over-the-counter medications that are safe when the smallest required dose is taken and only when absolutely necessary. These include:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Diphenhydramine (Benedryl-helps with sinus and sleep issues)
  • Guaifenesin (Mucinex-also helps with sinus headaches)

Also, you’ll need to remember not to take the multi-symptom or extra-strength form of these medications since the added substances and consistency could harm the baby. Plus, your provider might have other suggestions for safe remedies as well.

pregnant woman strengthening back

How to treat a headache using natural means

In addition to medicine, your doctor might have some ideas for natural remedies. Some possibilities include:

  • Applying an ice pack to the top of your head and the back of your neck
  • Applying a warm (not hot) heating pad around the eye and nose area for sinus headaches
  • Avoiding migraine triggers such as chocolate and hard cheese
  • Taking a relaxing, warm shower
  • Stretching your back and neck while doing some deep breathing

Sometimes a combination of these measures can work to alleviate your headache and help you to feel more comfortable.

Additionally, you can take further any of the following measures to relieve or prevent headaches such as:

  • Working on your posture especially during the third trimester
  • Eating a well balanced diet
  • Drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration
  • Get plenty of sleep at night

When taking these steps, you’ll find that headaches occur less frequently and are less severe.

obstetrician talking with patient

When to contact the doctor

While most headaches during pregnancy result from “normal” causes and can be easily treated, others signal more concerning conditions. In a review published by The Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Dr. Kirsty Revell states that women who have consistently experienced migraines face an increase risk of pre-eclampsia. This condition is manifested by high blood pressure and a loss of protein in the urine. It can also lead to complications during childbirth.

Another condition that presents itself with headaches is cerebral venous thrombosis. This increase of pressure in the brain stems from a blood clot that forms in the cerebral sinuses. While most situations involving a headache are not either of these conditions, you should consult with your practitioner if you are wondering if your headache during pregnancy is a normal physiological change or something else.

So, are headaches normal during pregnancy? As you can see, the answer is a yes in the vast majority of cases. Fortunately, you and your healthcare provider, as a team, can navigate this issue to figure out some steps toward relief and maybe even some preventive practices. That way, you can treasure this special time of preparing for delivery day, which also brings its own end to the headache situation.

Editors' Recommendations

What are the signs of implantation?
Wondering if you may be pregnant? Find out what implantation symptoms could occur if your are
Woman sitting on couch and looking at a pregnancy test

Implantation is when an embryo implants into the uterine lining to start growing into a fetus. For some, this moment could cause implantation symptoms like some bleeding or cramping, similar to a very light period. For others, nothing may happen. Following implantation, pregnancy symptom will begin and increase as the days progress. Read on to find out exactly what to expect in signs of implantation.

What is implantation?
Implantation usually happens five to nine days after fertilization (conception), when the embryo has already started to grow. It needs to bury itself into the thick lining of the uterus to keep growing. Without implantation, a pregnancy cannot progress. Medically, the pregnancy only begins once implantation takes place.

Read more
Need advice on parenting teens? Get support from these Facebook groups just for you
The best Facebook groups for parenting teens advice
A parent and teen talking.

Parenting teens can be a challenge, but doing it with the support of other parents can make it easier. These Facebook groups are places to find advice and support from other parents of teens as sounding boards to help you figure out the dilemmas that come up, like discipline, body image issues, dating and sex, and building trust.

Moms of Teens Support Group
This group is exclusively for moms, while others are open to all parents, caregivers, educators, and others. Get support, trade advice, or just vent about how parenting a teenager is going.
Parenting in a Tech World
Teens finding information, strangers, bullies, or all manner of things online is a concern for any parent in the modern age. This group of over 288,000 parents discusses issues of social media, screen time, online safety, and more about parenting in a tech world.
Parents of Teens with Depression, Anxiety and OCD
From 2016 to 2019, 5.8 million teens had anxiety and 2.7 million had depression, and those numbers have been increasing since. Supporting your teen's mental health is a special skill that can take an emotional toll and takes work to find a delicate balance of how to approach. This group of over 25,000 parents can help you find support in a safe space.
Raising Teenage Boys Is HARD!!
No matter their gender, raising teenagers is hard, but there are special challenges that come along with raising teen boys. This group, run by Teen Thrive, is for those raising teenage boys and looking for advice about puberty, communication, substance use, dating, bullying, internet and gaming device use, and mental health.
Raising Teenage Girls Is HARD! Parenting Teens Support Group by Teen Thrive
The sister group to the one above and also run by Teen Thrive, this group is all about raising teen girls. Issues like menstruation, mental health, dating, academics, body image and self-confidence, and peer pressure can all be discussed with over 35,000 other parents here.
Teenager parenting (Raising teens)
With hundreds of new posts every month, this group is a teen parenting haven. You can read through what others ask to get ideas on how to handle what's to come, give advice to others if you've been in their shoes, and ask your own questions about how to handle your own struggles with your teenager.

Read more
What is normal teen sexual behavior? We’ve got answers to help you understand your teenager
Read this to find out if your teen's sexual behavior is "normal"
Two teenagers on a date outside

What can parents actually expect when their kids turn into teens and start exploring their sexuality? It can be an uncomfortable subject, but being educated about typical sexual development and what your teen may be hearing from their peers is important to make sure you can talk openly with your child about protection, consent, risk reduction, and other issues.
Teens will be talking about sex and exploring this new part of their lives eventually and it's perfectly natural. Having your head in the sand won't make it go away, so the information below will prepare you with information to tackle this new stage of parenting.

Puberty
The onset of puberty is what can start the beginning of this stage of life for teens, but it doesn't mean they're ready for sex; just that they may start experiencing sexual thoughts like crushes or urges like feeling aroused. On average, puberty begins between ages 8 and 14.

Read more