What to Do About Early Pregnancy Headaches

What to Do About Early Pregnancy Headaches

Those first few weeks of pregnancy have plenty of aches and pains to throw at you. But early pregnancy headaches can be especially uncomfortable.
Whether it’s the dull pain of a tension headache or a migraine that sends you scurrying for a darkened room, headaches during the first trimester aren’t a lot of fun.

So what can you do about them? Let’s find out.

In this article: 📝

  • Are headaches common in the early stages of pregnancy?
  • What do early pregnancy headaches feel like?
  • What causes headaches in early pregnancy?
  • How to relieve early pregnancy headaches

Are headaches common in the early stages of pregnancy?

Headaches are a pretty common symptom throughout pregnancy.

“Headache during first trimester” and “headaches early pregnancy” are very common complaints, and around 39% of women report getting headaches while they’re pregnant or during the postpartum period.

So if that includes you, you are definitely not alone.

What do early pregnancy headaches feel like?

No mama-to-be experiences early pregnancy headaches in quite the same way—exactly where you feel the pain, and how severe it is, varies a lot.

But here’s what you might expect from three different types of headache:

Tension headache

This is the most common kind of headache.

It usually affects both sides of your head and sometimes even the back of your neck.

You might feel a squeezing pain or a dull but persistent ache in your head.

If you’ve struggled with tension headaches before now, you might get more of them during pregnancy.


A migraine headache is more likely to affect one side of your head.

You might feel a throbbing pain that’s moderate to severe in intensity.

The headache can hang around for four to 72 hours.

And you may have other symptoms, including:

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Sensitivity to light or noise.

Some women also get migraines with an “aura”— visual changes or tingling in your arms and legs before the headache kicks in.

If you have a history of migraines, there’s some good news: you might find they ease off during pregnancy.

But if you’ve never had one before, there’s a chance that you could start experiencing them while you’re pregnant.

Sinus headache

You can get this type of headache as a side effect of a cold or respiratory infection, but it’s not actually that common.

It tends to feel like pressure or pain in the area of your forehead, eyes, or cheeks.

If it is caused by an infection, you might need antibiotics to sort it out.

What causes headaches in early pregnancy?

Why do you get headaches in early pregnancy?

Actually, there are lots of possible reasons.

Some headaches may be linked to the changes going on in your body, including your fluctuating hormones and the higher volume of blood your heart is pumping around these days.

Other possible causes for your headache could be:

  • Low blood sugar or dehydration (which could be caused by morning sickness).
  • Caffeine withdrawal (if you’ve suddenly cut down on your coffee intake because of your pregnancy).
  • Fatigue or lack of sleep.
  • Not enough exercise.
  • Stress.
  • Sensitivity to light or changes to your vision.

It’s pretty common for certain foods to trigger headaches in early pregnancy, too. Foods to watch out for include:

  • Foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG).
  • Processed meats, such as salami and hot dogs, which can contain nitrites or nitrates.
  • Artificial sweeteners.
  • Some dairy products, such as strong, aged cheese.
  • Smoked fish.
  • Foods that are fermented or pickled, like kimchi or soy sauce.

How to relieve early pregnancy headaches

Here are some steps you can take to help ease your headaches:

  • Avoid triggers. Keep a headache diary to help you identify anything that might be causing your headaches. That could include one of the foods above, flickering lights, or loud noise.
  • Chat with your healthcare provider about pregnancy-safe pain relief. Acetaminophen (AKA Tylenol) is usually considered safe. Ibuprofen (AKA Advil) is best avoided unless your doctor says otherwise.
  • Take a warm, soothing bath (for a tension headache) or a cold shower (for a migraine).
  • Stop smoking if you can, and try to avoid second-hand smoke.
  • Eat well and drink plenty of water.
  • Prioritize sleep.
  • Get some gentle exercise, such as walking, swimming, or yoga.
  • Tackle stress, perhaps with meditation or breathing exercises.

And, if you have a migraine headache, try to rest in a cool, dark, quiet room.

A cold compress might help, too.

Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about early pregnancy headaches, especially if they’re severe.

They might be able to suggest a more targeted treatment for you.

We hope you get some relief soon. 💙

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