Headaches are common in pregnancy. They are more common in the first trimester (0 to 13 weeks) or third trimester (27 to 40 weeks).
Headaches can be unpleasant for you but are not dangerous for your baby. They can be a sign that you need to get checked out by your GP, midwife or obstetrician. It's important to be aware of what to look out for.
Causes of headaches during pregnancy
Headaches during pregnancy can be caused by:
- hormonal changes - levels of certain hormones increase during pregnancy
- lack of sleep
- low blood sugar
- caffeine withdrawal
- high blood pressure
If you suffer from migraine headaches, you may find you get migraines more often or less often when you are pregnant.
Speak with your GP or pharmacist before taking your usual migraine medications.
To treat headaches
If you experience a headache, there are a few things you can try at home that may help:
- rest in a dark room and take long, slow deep breaths
- apply hot or cold packs to your head and neck
- eat small meals often
- get a massage
- relax in a warm bath or warm shower
Using painkillers when pregnant
Some medicines, including painkillers, can harm your baby's health.
Paracetamol is generally considered safe during pregnancy. Always check the packaging for the correct amount of tablets to take, and how often you may take them.
If you find you need to take paracetamol for more than a couple of days, you may need to speak to your GP.
Ibuprofen is sometimes recommended for headaches during pregnancy. You can only take this at certain times during your pregnancy. Always check with your GP, pharmacist or obstetrician before taking ibuprofen.
Check with your GP, pharmacist or midwife before taking any medication.
When to seek help
Tell your doctor or midwife if you often have bad headaches. It could be a sign of a more serious problem.
Non-urgent advice: Contact your midwife or GP immediately if you have:
- generalised swelling, especially if this is sudden
- flashing lights in your eyes or blurred vision
- been told your blood pressure is increasing
- a sudden severe headache
- a headache that is worsening
- a migraine that feels different to the migraines you usually have
- a pain in the upper part of your tummy