What can I do about headaches during pregnancy? I'd rather not take medication.
Answer From Yvonne Butler Tobah, M.D.
To prevent or relieve mild headaches during pregnancy without taking medication, try the following:
- Avoid headache triggers. If certain foods or odors have triggered a headache 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 stressors.
- 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.
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, call your health care provider. There are many causes of headaches, including some problems related to high blood pressure.
Yvonne Butler Tobah, M.D.
Aug. 10, 2022
- Lee MJ, et al. Headache in pregnant and postpartum women. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed June 13, 2018.
- Pregnancy: Staying healthy and safe. Office on Women's Health. https://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/youre-pregnant-now-what/staying-healthy-and-safe. Accessed June 13, 2018.
- MacGregor EA. Headache in pregnancy. Continuum (Minneapolis, Minn.). 2014;20:128.
- Bajwa ZH. Preventive treatment of migraine in adults. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed June 13, 2018.