What can I do about headaches during pregnancy? I'd rather not take medication.
Answers from Yvonne Butler Tobah, M.D.
To prevent or relieve mild headaches during pregnancy without taking medication, try the following:
- Cool Compress. Lie down and place a cool compress on your head.
- Avoid headache triggers. If certain foods or odors seem to have triggered your migraines in the past, avoid them. A headache diary might help you identify triggers.
- Include physical activity in your daily routine. Try a daily walk or other moderate aerobic exercise.
- Manage stress. Find healthy ways to cope with the stressors, such as delegating tasks on your to-do list.
- Practice relaxation techniques. Try deep breathing, yoga, massage and visualization.
- Eat regularly. Eating regularly scheduled meals and maintaining a healthy diet might help prevent headaches. Also, drink plenty of fluids.
- Follow a regular sleep schedule. Sleep deprivation might contribute to headaches during pregnancy.
- Consider biofeedback. With this mind-body technique, you learn to control certain bodily functions — such as muscle tension, heart rate and blood pressure — to prevent headaches or reduce headache pain. If you'd like to try biofeedback to treat headaches during pregnancy, ask your health care provider for a referral to a biofeedback therapist.
Keep in mind that most pregnant women can safely take acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) to treat occasional headaches. Your health care provider might recommend other medications as well. Make sure you have the OK from your health care provider before taking any medication, including herbal treatments.
Headaches during pregnancy are common. However, if you develop a severe headache or a headache that doesn't go away, call your health care provider. Severe headaches can be a sign of a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, often the kidneys (preeclampsia).
Aug. 11, 2015
Yvonne Butler Tobah, M.D.
See more Expert Answers
- Lee MJ, et al. Headache in pregnant and postpartum women. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 22, 2015.
- Pregnancy: Staying healthy and safe. Office on Women's Health. http://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/you-are-pregnant/staying-healthy-safe.html#d. Accessed June 22, 2015.
- Menon R, et al. Headache and pregnancy. The Neurologist. 2008;14:108.
- Digre K. Headaches during pregnancy. Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2013;56:317.
- Bajwa ZH. Preventive treatment of migraine in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 22, 2015.
- Taylor FR. Tension-type headache in adults: Preventive treatment. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 22, 2015.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Month 6. In: Your Pregnancy and Childbirth Month to Month. 5th ed. Washington, D.C.: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; 2010.
- MacGregor EA. Headache in pregnancy. Continuum (Minneapolis, Minn.). 2014;20:128.