Headache during pregnancy

Dr. Ayush PandeyMBBS,PG Diploma

December 03, 2018

March 06, 2020

Headache during pregnancy
Headache during pregnancy

What is Headache During Pregnancy?

Headaches are a very commonly reported complaint during pregnancy and may occur at any time of the day. However, headaches are quite common during the first and third trimester of pregnancy. It is usually not an alarming unless accompanied by other symptoms.

What are the main associated signs and symptoms?

Headache during pregnancy may feel like a dull yet throbbing ache in the temples, back of the head, or behind the eyes.

Headache due to a migraine may be a sharp pain that sometimes extends down the neck as well.

One must contact the health care provider if

  • The headache is accompanied by fever and vomiting
  • The headache does not go away within a few hours or continues to worsen
  • The headache causes blurred vision and confusion
  • There is bleeding of any form from nose or eyes (Read more: Nose bleed causes)

What are the main causes?

Hormonal changes occur during pregnancy, which can give rise to headaches.

It is also common in early pregnancy because, during this time, progesterone leads to the relaxation of muscles in the uterus and blood vessels in the head. This causes the blood to pound through the veins resulting in frequent headaches.

There are other factors that can lead to headaches as well, which act as triggers:

Migraine headaches may also occur during pregnancy. However, in some women who have had migraine headaches before pregnancy, the severity of the headaches may decrease. Headaches can also be due to rare but serious causes like the rupture of an artery in the brain, or high blood pressure.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

Headaches are commonly diagnosed by a simple description of the symptoms. However, if the headache is accompanied by other symptoms and has not eased for a long duration, the doctor may conduct other tests to check for abnormalities like a CT scan, MRI, or CT angiography. These will help identify the cause

Headaches during pregnancy can usually be eased using home treatment, such as

  • Warm compress
  • Cold compress
  • Massage
  • Bed rest
  • Aromatherapy

To prevent headaches, the doctor may also recommend maintaining a healthy diet and engaging in regular physical activity, such as yoga and other exercises (under the supervision of an expert).

Do not take any medication before consulting the doctor. The doctor might advise painkillers that are safe to be consumed during pregnancy, or blood pressure lowering medicines.


  1. American Pregnancy Association. Migraines During Pregnancy. [Internet]
  2. American Pregnancy Association. Pregnancy And Headaches. [Internet]
  3. A. Negro et al. Headache and pregnancy: a systematic review. J Headache Pain. 2017; 18(1): 106. PMID: 29052046
  4. Jessica C. Schoen et al. Headache in Pregnancy: An Approach to Emergency Department Evaluation and Management. West J Emerg Med. 2015 Mar; 16(2): 291–301. PMID: 25834672
  5. Digre KB. Headaches during pregnancy.. Clin Obstet Gynecol. 2013 Jun;56(2):317-29. PMID: 23563877
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