MoonDragon's Pregnancy Information
HEADACHES DURING PREGNANCY
It is not unusual to get tension headaches during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. Tension headaches is the most common type of headache and can feel like a squeezing pain or a steady dull ache on both sides of the neck. If you have been susceptible to tension headaches, pregnancy can make the problem worse.
However, the headaches you experience can get better in pregnancy, because the progesterone causes the blood vessels to relax and not spasm, which is often a cause of bad headaches. If you do suffer from increased headaches during pregnancy, you may be particularly sensitive to your hormones or have had headache problems before your pregnancy. Pregnancy headaches are most commonly the result of hormonal changes, fatigue, tension, hunger or physical and emotional stress.
Engage in some deductive reasoning and figure out the cause of your headaches. Headaches are set off by many factors. Since one particular factor may be causing your headaches, finding out the root of that cause may eliminate your problem. Experts do not know exactly why pregnancy tends to make your head ache more often, but one good guess is the hormonal changes and fluctuations in your body. If you have been used to ingesting caffeine, quitting caffeine can also make your head hurt. Other potential causes include the lack of sleep, allergies, eyestrain, depression and dehydration. For most pregnant women, headaches tend to diminish or even disappear during the second trimester, when the flood of hormones stabilizes and the body grows accustomed to its altered chemistry.
MIGRAINES AND PREGNANCY
Migraines are another common type of headache. Experts estimate that about one in five women has a migraine headache at some time in her life, and about 15 percent of migraine sufferers get migraines for the first time when they are pregnant (most often in the first trimester).
Migraine headaches cause moderate to severe throbbing pain, typically on one side of the head. They last from four to 72 hours (if untreated) and are aggravated by physical activity. They are also accompanied by other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light and noise.
Some migraine sufferers have what are known as migraines with aura - that is, headaches that are preceded by symptoms that may include visual changes (such as bright flashing lights or blind spots), sensations of numbness or "pins and needles," weakness, and speech disturbances. These symptoms may start as long as an hour before a migraine and may last up to an hour.
Fortunately, about two thirds of women who are prone to migraines notice that they improve during pregnancy. (This is more likely if your migraines tended to be worse around your periods or started when you first began menstruating.) Others notice no change or find that their headaches become more frequent and intense.
Even if you are part of the unlucky minority whose migraines do not improve during pregnancy, you can at least take some solace in the fact that migraine sufferers do not appear to have a higher risk of pregnancy complications than other women.
Headache health care providers often recommend keeping a "headache diary" to help identify specific triggers. Write down anything you have eaten in the 24 hours preceding the onset of a migraine and what you were doing when it started.
Some common migraine triggers include foods that contain monosodium glutamate (MSG), nitrites (common in processed meats like hot dogs, salami, and bacon), sulfites (used as a preservative for salads and also found in many dried fruits), artificial sweeteners, certain beans and nuts, aged cheese and cultured dairy products (like buttermilk and sour cream), certain fresh fruits (bananas, papayas, avocados, and citrus), smoked fish, chocolate and carob, and things that are fermented or pickled (like soy sauce or sauerkraut), as well as glaring or flickering lights, loud noises, excessive heat or cold, strong odors, and tobacco smoke.
POTENTIAL WAYS TO TREAT YOUR HEADACHES
Some headaches are triggered by low blood sugar. You can prevent any bouts of decreased blood sugar by not missing meals and carrying high-energy snacks with you such as crackers, fruit, or yogurt. To prevent low blood sugar, eat smaller, more frequent meals. Avoid straight sugar, like candy, which can cause your blood sugar to spike and crash.
MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Hypoglycemia
Drink plenty of water - dehydration can cause headaches. Sip water slowly if you have a migraine and have vomited.
MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Dehydration
Whenever possible, avoid loud music, noisy restaurants, packed parties and crowded department stores.
Ensure your environment is healthy. Certain chemicals in cleansers, paints, glues and other household items can be toxic in enclosed areas. An overheated, smoke-filled unventilated room can trigger some people's headaches. Also, make sure that your home and workspace have adequate natural lighting and plenty of fresh air ventilation. Fluorescent lights often are a cause of headaches in sensitive individuals.
MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Environmental Toxicity & Poisoning
Try going out for a brisk walk. The fresh air may help relieve your symptoms. Regular exercise can reduce the frequency and severity of migraines and reduce the stress that can cause tension headaches. It is usually recommended that pregnant women get 30 minutes a day of light to moderate aerobic exercise (although you should discuss it with your midwife before starting on any new exercise program). Good exercise for pregnancy besides walking includes cycling, swimming and yoga. If you are exercising and feel exhausted, light-headed, get too hot or short of breath, discontinue exercise and contact your midwife or health care provider. If you are prone to migraines, get started slowly. A sudden burst of activity could trigger a migraine. Do not exercise after a migraine has started because it will aggravate the headache.
Rest (but not too much, sometimes too much rest can worsen your overall symptoms)! To avoid fatigue, try to make time for naps in your day. You should be getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night. If you still feel tired, you may want to increase your sleeping time to 9 or 10 hours. If you are having a migraine, try to sleep it off in a quiet, dark room as long as it takes for it to go away.
Meditation and yoga are two ways to help you relax and decrease the effects of tension headaches. Self-hypnosis is helpful in reducing stress and headaches in some sufferers.
MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Meditation Therapy
MoonDragon's Alternative Therapy: Touch & Movement - Yoga
Try lying down during your lunch break and after work. You do not have to sleep, just put your feet up with a good book or a television remote for at least ten to 15 minutes or longer as needed. Consider going on disability if you feel constantly exhausted or like your body cannot keep up with your daily routine.
MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Relaxation Therapy
Acupuncture, acupressure, biofeedback and massage have been show to bring some relief from a headache. Consider getting a full body massage to release tension in the muscles of the neck, shoulders, and back. If you can afford it, look for a trained prenatal massage therapist. If a professional massage is not part of your financial budget, ask your partner to rub your back and head, or slip into a salon for a professional shampoo. Some women who suffer from tension headaches swear by massage, although some studies question whether it is effective in preventing or relieving headaches. Acupuncture treatment is considered safe during pregnancy, although whether it is effective for headaches is an issue of debate among conventional medical practitioners. If you would like to give it a try, ask your midwife or health care provider for the names of acupuncturists and keep her posted on your treatments. If you would like to see a practitioner who is also an M.D., call the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture at (800) 521-2252 for more information. Acupressure may be helpful with headaches. It is usually not recommended to acupressure on yourself or without adequate knowledge of acupressure points. Some acupressure points can actually cause labor to begin. If you wish to use acupressure during pregnancy to alleviate headaches, a professional acupressure therapist is probably your best bet, although it may be costly.
MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Acupressure Therapy
MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Acupuncture Therapy
MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Biofeedback Therapy
MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Massage Therapy
MoonDragon's Alternative Therapy: Touch & Movement - Massage
Alternating hot and cold compresses to the aching area for ten minutes can alleviate some of your pain. If you have a sinus headache, applying a warm compress to your nose and beneath your eyes may help. For tension headaches, apply a warm or cool compress to your forehead, around your shoulders or the base of your skull. Cold compresses tend to work best for migraines.
MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Hot & Cold Therapy
Cut a lemon into wedges and suck the juice out of the wedges.
For some migraine sufferers, a cold shower brings some fast, if temporary, relief. If you cannot take a shower, splash some cool water on your face. A warm shower or bath can be soothing for tension headaches.
MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Hydrotherapy
It is a good idea to avoid taking any kind of drugs while pregnant. However, if your midwife or health care practitioner recommends it, an occasional Tylenol (acetaminophen) is often suggested but limit the number you take by using only regular strength and not extra strength. Acetaminophen is considered to be safe to take as directed on the label, but the effects of acetaminophen on pregnancy has not been fully determined and some studies link overuse during pregnancy (more than 4 grams in 48 hours) with birth defects and complications. Because of this, experts recommend that pregnant women take Tylenol rarely, using it only as a last resort for a stubborn headache that will not go away.
Most other headache medications - such as aspirin and ibuprofen, as well as most prescription migraine drugs - are not recommended for pregnant women. (Advil and Ibuprofen) are not to be taken in pregnancy because they may affect an unborn baby's heart, reduce birth weight, and have other dangerous effects on the unborn baby. In addition, taking aspirin late in pregnancy can cause excess bleeding and/or clotting issues, causing a huge complication during delivery. Like Tylenol, the effects of aspirin and aspirin products during pregnancy have not been fully determined.
Consult your midwife or health care practitioner about which medications you can take if you are prone to severe migraines.
If you are having frequent, debilitating headaches, the benefits of certain medications may outweigh any possible risks to your baby, although some drugs will remain strictly off-limits.
MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Pain Control Therapy
Peppermint essential oil is great for relieving headaches. Simply inhaling it will often get rid of headaches within fifteen minutes to half an hour. All essential oils (including peppermint oil) should never go directly onto the skin without being diluted by a carrier, base or vegetable oils (not the kind you cook with), unless you know exactly what you are doing. An example of a carrier oil includes Almond oil, Jojoba oil and Sesame oil. Most essential oils are too strong to go on our skin and often cause allergic reactions. While quality essential oils are a little more expensive, they will work better than their cheaper counterparts. Most health and organic food stores stores sell essential oils (See Essential Oil Products).
Amazon: Migraine Headache Relief Products
CONTACTING YOUR MIDWIFE OR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER
Most headaches during pregnancy are unpleasant but harmless, but a headache can be a sign of a more serious problem. If you are having a migraine or other severe headache for the first time ever, you will need a full medical evaluation to be sure nothing else is going on.
In the second or third trimester of pregnancy, a headache could be a sign of severe preeclampsia, a serious pregnancy-induced syndrome that includes high blood pressure, protein in the urine, and other changes.
MoonDragon's Pregnancy Information: Toxemia (Preeclampsia/Eclampsia)
CALL YOUR MIDWIFE OR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER RIGHT AWAY IF:
You are in your second or third trimester and have a bad headache or a headache for the first time, which may or may not be accompanied by visual changes, sharp upper abdominal pain, sudden weight gain, or swelling in your hands or face. You will need to have your blood pressure and urine checked right away to be sure you do not have preeclampsia. (If you have been having any problems with high or rising blood pressure, call even if you have a mild headache.)
You have a sudden "explosive" headache, violent pain that awakens you from sleep, a headache that does not go away, or one that feels unlike any you have ever experienced.
Your headache is accompanied by a fever and a stiff neck.
Your headache is getting worse and you experience any other problems such as blurry vision or other visual disturbances, slurred speech, drowsiness, numbness, or a change in normal sensation or alertness.
You have a headache after falling and hitting your head (or any other kind of head injury).
You have nasal congestion, as well as pain and pressure underneath your eyes or other facial or even dental pain. You might have a sinus infection that will need to be treated with antibiotics.
Even if you have had headaches before, talk to your midwife or health care provider about them so she can decide what kind of evaluation and treatment might be best for you during your pregnancy. If you are a migraine sufferer, you will not be able to take most of the medications you have used before. Ask your caregiver before taking any medication other than acetaminophen.
If you feel like your eyes are straining and notice that you get headaches after reading or looking at a computer screen, have your vision checked by an eye professional. Finally, do not hesitate to call your midwife or health care practitioner whenever a headache just has you worried.
RELATED HELPFUL LINKS
MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Headache
MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Migraine Headache
MoonDragon's Pregnancy Information: Folic Acid Foods
MoonDragon's Nutritional Information & Nutrient Analysis
MoonDragon's Pregnancy Information: Morning Sickness & Suggestions
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PREGNANCY HEADACHE PRODUCTS
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Healing Baths For Colds
Using Essential Oils
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