Headaches in pregnancy: All you need to know

If you are pregnant and you have headache, you are not alone. It is common for a pregnant woman to suffer from headaches or migraines. Studies show that about 40 percent and 50 percent of the pregnant woman suffer from headache and migraine respectively. Unfortunately, research also shows that these headaches can continue postpartum. The most common headaches during pregnancy are tension headaches, cervicogenic headaches, cluster headaches, migraines, and sinus headaches.

Buy now † Our best subscription now has a special price

The presentation or symptoms of the headache depend on the type of headache you have.

  • Tension headaches: If you are stressed, hungry, or feel pain in your neck or shoulders, you may have a tension headache, which feels like a mild to moderate dull ache. It is one of the most common types.

  • Cervicogenic headache: This refers to headaches that arise from dysfunction or inflammation of the musculoskeletal structures of the upper cervical spine.

  • Cluster headaches: These cause a severe “stabbing” pain, usually on one side of the head and around the eye. A person may also notice some other symptoms such as nasal congestion, watery eyes, or swelling in the area.

  • Migraine: With migraine headaches, you can expect moderate to severe pain that is throbbing and lasts for hours or even days. Some women with migraines also experience blurred vision, flashes of light, numbness, and nausea.

  • Sinus headaches: Pressure around your eyes, cheeks and forehead plus a stuffy nose can indicate a sinus headache. These usually occur with a sinus infection, but they are also often confused with migraines. In either case, the pain can get worse if you bend over or lie down.


headache, headache causes, headache medications The most common headaches during pregnancy are tension headaches, cervicogenic headaches, cluster headaches, migraines, and sinus headaches. (Source: Getty Images)

first trimester

Tension headaches are common in the first trimester of your pregnancy pregnancy† This can happen because your body is going through several changes right now. These changes can cause headaches:

  • Hormonal changes

  • Higher blood volume

  • Weight changes

Common Causes of Headaches pain during the first trimester of pregnancy also include:

Some foods can also trigger headaches. Your trigger food can change during pregnancy. Common foods that can trigger headaches in some people include:

  • Dairy

  • Chocolate

  • Cheese

  • Yeast

  • tomatoes

Second and third trimester

Headaches during your second and third trimesters can have a variety of causes. Among which:

Regardless of the type of headache, a common factor is that headaches are most often associated with: neck or shoulder tenderness or pain and stress where a physical therapist can play an important role, especially in the cervicogenic headache

Cervicogenic headache (CGH) is a chronic headache originating in the atlanto-occipital and upper cervical joints and seen in one or more areas of the head and/or face.

The first aim is to distinguish between primary headaches (when pain is the disease) and secondary headaches (when pain is a symptom of another disease). Strictly speaking, this is the number one concern for a pregnant woman who suffers from this symptom† Three scenarios are possible:

  1. She has primary headache and now presents with her usual headache;

  2. She has no primary headache and presents with her first severe headache during pregnancy;

  3. She has a primary headache, but now the pain is different in quality, intensity, or associated symptoms.

In the second and third scenarios, headache should be considered as a symptom of an underlying disease until an appropriate diagnostic evaluation is performed.

The International Headache Society (IHS) has validated cervicogenic headaches as a secondary headache type believed to arise from nociception in the cervical region.

Cervicogenic headaches can mimic migraines, so it can be difficult to distinguish a cervicogenic headache from a migraine headache. The main difference is that a migraine headache is rooted in the brain and a cervicogenic headache is rooted in the cervical spine (neck) or base of the cranial region.

Despite the rare cases of first seizures occurring during the first pregnancy, nearly a quarter of pregnant women report that an expected TROS period does not develop during pregnancy, while it may start shortly after delivery

pregnant woman Headaches are most commonly associated with neck or shoulder tenderness or pain and stress, with a physical therapist playing an important role, especially in cervicogenic headaches. (Photo: Getty Images/Thinkstock)


In addition to a throbbing headache, symptoms of cervicogenic headaches may include:

  • Pain around the eyes.

  • A headache with a certain neck postures or movement.

  • Persistent pain that is not right.

  • Headache when coughing, sneezing or taking deep breaths breath

  • An attack of pain that can last for hours or days.

  • Stiff neck – you cannot move your neck normally.

  • Pain that stays in one place, such as the back, front, or side of your head or your eye.

Cervicogenic headaches can also cause symptoms similar to migraines, such as sensitivity to light, sensitivity to sound, blurred vision, and upset stomach.

What can you do to prevent pregnancy headaches?

  • avoid headaches triggers† If certain foods or smells have caused headaches in the past, avoid them. A headache diary can help you identify triggers.

  • Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. Try a daily walk or other moderate aerobic exercise.

  • To manage tension† Find healthy ways to deal with stressors.

  • Practice relaxation techniques. Try deep breathing, massage, and visualization.

  • Eat regularly. Eating regularly scheduled meals and healthy diet can help prevent headaches. Also drink plenty of fluids.

  • Follow a regular sleep schedule. Sleep deprivation can contribute to headaches during pregnancy.

  • Watch your attitude. Try not to slump, slump, or bend over for long while working closely (knitting little booties, making your baby’s scrapbook) stretches of time.

  • Go alternative. To prevent stress from developing into a headache, you can consult a physiotherapist.

Physical Therapy Treatment For Headaches:

Physiotherapists can’t change the chemical imbalances in your body that cause headaches, but they can help reduce other sources of migraines. Physical therapy techniques can strengthen and stretch the neck and back muscles. When these muscles are tense due to poor posture or extra weight (such as during pregnancy), they can cause headaches and migraines with the treatment below.

  • stretches

  • Strengthening Exercises

  • Re-education of attitude

  • Sensorimotor Training

  • MFR and trigger point release

  • (Myofascial) mobility, strength, stability and posture exercises

Amazingly, most headache sufferers often say that receiving physical therapy treatment is like a light switch: once the treatment is received, the headache is turned off.

(The writer is Chief Physiotherapist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Bengaluru – Jayanagar.)

Download the Indian Express app for all the latest parenting news.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.