Headaches during pregnancy

by Ellie Kirwin-Jones |

For a lot of women, pregnancy is fraught with unwanted side effects.

Unrelenting indigestion, morning sickness, headaches... far from the glowing, vibrant pregnancy we'd once envisioned (ha!).

A lot of the symptoms are to do with the surge of certain hormones in the body, including headaches.

If you're experiencing a sore head whilst you're expecting, read on to find out the causes and treatments...

What causes headaches in pregnancy?

Headaches are most common in your first and third trimester. The NHS says headaches are most common in early pregnancy and usually improve or stop completely during the last 6 months.

As your body will be experiencing many hormonal changes in your first trimester, this can cause more frequent headaches than normal.

Headaches can also be caused by lack of sleep, stress, low blood sugar levels and dehydration.

Headaches during your third trimester could be an indication of preeclampsia, a condition that describes high blood pressure during pregnancy.

Preeclampsia can lead to serious problems if it's not looked at, so check with your midwife if you see swelling in your face, hands, and feet, and have pain under your ribs.

What do I do?

The NHS recommends you to try and prevent headaches from happening in the first place if you can by:

  • Eating balanced meals

  • Drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration

  • Getting enough sleep

  • Resting and relaxing whenever you can – you could try a pregnancy yoga class

If you're suffering badly from these pregnancy headaches, you can take paracetamol.

Paracetamol is the recommended painkiller for many pregnant women as it has no harmful effects to you or your baby.

If you do not experience any relief from the advice or the headaches are getting more severe and intense, contact your midwife.


Pregnant women can also experience migraines. A migraine is a type of headache that occurs on one side of the head and can make people feel sick and be sensitive to light or sound.

Before or during a migraine, some people could:

  • See flashing lights or a change in their vision

  • Problems with their speech

  • Pins and needles feeling in their arms and legs

To treat or relieve the symptoms of a migraine, try the following:

  • Put a warm facecloth on your eye and nose area, if it is a sinus headache

  • Put a cold pack on the back of your neck, taking a bath or using a heat pack, if it is a tension headache

  • Try a neck and shoulders massage

The following foods can trigger a migraine which you should look out for:

  • Chocolate

  • Yoghurt

  • Peanuts

  • Bread

  • Sour cream

  • Preserved meats

  • Aged cheese

  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

  • Caffeine (withdrawal from)

Here also some things to look out for:

  • Bright or flickering lights

  • Strong smells

  • Loud sounds

  • Emotional triggers such as arguments or stress

This site provides general information and discussions about pregnancy/health and related subjects. The information and other content provided on this site, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.

Always seek the advice of your doctor or your health care provider for professional medical advice. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that have read on this site or in any linked materials.

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