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Is It Normal to Have Headaches in Second Trimester Pregnancy?

Medically Reviewed on 8/20/2021

Types of headaches

Many women experience headaches during pregnancy. Headaches tend to be worse during the first trimester and they get better in the second and third trimesters although some women still experience headaches during the second trimester.

Many women experience headaches during pregnancy. In most cases, they’re painful and unpleasant but won’t harm your baby. But a severe headache may be a sign of a serious pregnancy complication. 

The three most common types of headaches are:‌

  • Tension headaches are usually felt across your forehead or the back of your head. This is a mild to moderate, constant pain that may last for hours.
  • Sinus headaches are felt in your cheeks or at the bridge of your nose. This type of headache has a mild to moderate pain.
  • Migraines involve moderate to severe throbbing pain. The pain may be at one side of your head, the back of your head, your temple, or your eye. It may be accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to sound and light.

There is good news for those who had migraines before pregnancy. Up to 80% of women with pre-pregnancy migraines have fewer episodes in their second and third trimesters.

Is it common to have pregnancy second trimester headaches?

Headaches are a common pregnancy symptom. Researchers say that 39% of pregnant and postpartum women have headaches.

Headaches tend to be worse in the first trimester and improve during the second and third trimester. But some women still get headaches in their second trimester. About 4% to 8% of women say their pregnancy headaches get worse after the first trimester.

What causes pregnancy headaches?

Body changes during pregnancy. When you’re pregnant, your blood volume increases and your hormone levels go up and down. You produce more mucus, which leads to congestion. All this can lead to headaches.

Not enough water. Dehydration can cause pregnancy headaches. You need to drink more than usual when you’re pregnant. This is even more important if you are vomiting or have nausea.

Muscle stress. Your growing baby is pushing against your body parts. Your posture also changes. All this can create muscle tension in your body and lead to tension headaches. This tends to happen more in the third trimester of pregnancy.

Caffeine withdrawal. Many pregnant women give up caffeine. This caffeine withdrawal can trigger headaches

Low blood sugar. Pregnancy often leads to changes in your eating habits and appetite. Hunger and low blood sugar levels can trigger headaches.

Nutritional deficiencies. You may get headaches if you don’t have enough nutrients, such as:

  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Protein
  • Magnesium 

Headache as a preeclampsia symptom

Severe headaches can be a sign of preeclampsia. This is a serious pregnancy complication related to high blood pressure. Preeclampsia affects about 5% to 8% of pregnancies.

Call your doctor immediately if you have a severe headache and any of these other signs or symptoms:

  • Vision problems.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Swelling. Some swelling is normal during pregnancy. But if you have a lot of swelling in your face or your hands, this may be a sign of preeclampsia.
  • Nausea or vomiting. If your nausea and vomiting comes back after mid-pregnancy, this may be a sign of preeclampsia.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Seizures. 

Preeclampsia is more common in the third trimester, but it’s also seen in the second trimester. 

How to relieve headaches during pregnancy

Here are some tips to help soothe a pregnancy headache:

  • If stress or certain foods and smells cause your headaches, try to avoid them. Keep a headache diary to help identify your triggers.
  • Practice relaxation techniques. Try yoga, prenatal massage, meditation, and deep breathing.
  • Get lots of rest. 
  • Eat regular meals and snacks. Drink lots of fluids.
  • Try warm or cool compresses.

Over-the-counter medicines. Talk to your doctor before taking your regular pain medication. Most over-the-counter medications aren’t suitable to use during pregnancy. Many pregnant women take acetaminophen (Tylenol). But some studies show that there may be effects from taking acetaminophen.

When taking over-the-counter medications, use the lowest effective dose and try not to take it for too long.

When to call your doctor

See your doctor if:

  • You have a new type of headache.
  • Your headache suddenly gets worse in less than 5 minutes.
  • Your headache changes when you stand up or change posture.
  • You have a fever with your headache.
  • You have weakness, numbness, or vision change.

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Medically Reviewed on 8/20/2021

References

SOURCES:

American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology: “Severe preeclampsia in the second trimester: recurrence risk and long-term prognosis.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “What type of headache do you have?”

Intermountain Healthcare: “Signs and Symptoms of Preeclampsia and Why It’s Important to Monitor.”

The Journal of Headache and Pain: “Headache and pregnancy: a systematic review.”

Michigan Health: “Pregnancy and Headache: Why It Happens and What to Do.”

Obstetrics & Gynecology: “The Role of Headache in the Classification and Management of Hypertensive Disorders in Pregnancy.”

Progress in Neurology and Psychiatry: “Management of migraine during pregnancy.”

University of Washington Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology: “Why Don’t More Women Talk About Pregnancy Headaches?”
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