Headache during Pregnancy – Causes and Management

Along with many other problems, women experience occasional headaches during pregnancy. During the first trimester, the headache can be related to any primary cause but in the second and third trimesters, headaches indicate some other health problems such as hypertension, hypoglycemia, and many others.

Common symptoms of headache during pregnancy

Headache is mostly throbbing, pulsating, or aching in character. The intensity may vary from dull to severe. Some other symptoms that may accompany are dependent upon the type of headache experienced.

  • Migraine: Nausea, vomiting, photophobia, and phonophobia are common symptoms experienced with a migraine.
  • Tension headache: Dull pain gripping in character is experienced in the form of a band around the head.
  • Cluster headache: A headache that originates at the occiput and radiates towards the forehead is most commonly observed, which is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and scalp tenderness.

Along with these, severe pain on both sides of the head, on one side of the head, and behind the eyes is also experienced.

What are the causes of headache during pregnancy?

The main cause of headaches during pregnancy is hormonal changes, which the mother experiences throughout the gestational period. These hormonal changes along with other causes such as dehydration, hypertension, and drastic weight changes can trigger a headache. However, the causes may vary in each trimester.

First trimester

In the first trimester, the headache usually has a primary cause. Which can be one of these:

  • Photophobia
  • Lack of sleep
  • Excessive vomiting and dehydration
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Caffeine withdrawal (as prescribed by the obstetrician)
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Stress and tension
  • Dairy products

Second and third trimester

Frequent headaches during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy might indicate some other underlying illness. These can range from simple issues like bad posture and lack of sleep to serious causes such as hypertension and gestational diabetes.

These problems not only cause headaches during pregnancy but also pose high risks to the baby’s health.

Migraines and pregnancy

Estrogen is believed to cause migraines during pregnancy. The major complication that may have caused migraines during pregnancy is pre-eclampsia. However, taking good care and tracking the triggers, and avoiding them can help decrease the frequency.


A primary headache can easily be picked by taking a proper history. For secondary causes, some diagnostic tests might be recommended by your doctor. These can be:

  • Blood glucose levels
  • Vision tests
  • Ultrasound of head and neck
  • EEG, ECG.
  • MRI and CT scan.

How can a headache be managed during pregnancy?

Talk to your doctor before taking any regular headache medication. Avoid aspirin and ibuprofen at any cost. Try alternative natural home remedies to treat the pain.


  • Identify your triggers and try to avoid them
  • Avoid smoking
  • Change your posture
  • Abstain from drinking coffee and other caffeine-containing beverages
  • Take a lot of rest and stay stress-free
  • Eat healthily
  • Try acupuncture, acupressure, and massages.

Home remedies

  • Take rest
  • Stay hydrated
  • Use ice packs for inflammation
  • Try head massages
  • Try easy exercises

Medical treatment

  • You can take a low dose of paracetamol (Tylenol)
  • Some doctors also recommend taking a small dose of aspirin
  • Other than that underlying cause is treated.

When to consult a doctor?

If your diet is good and the headache is becoming more frequent and you start having other symptoms along with that you should consult a doctor.


Do migraines during pregnancy affect my baby?

Occasional migraines don’t cause too much harm but if you are having more episodes than usual, consult your obstetrician

What medications should I avoid taking for headaches during pregnancy?

Avoid taking aspirin and ibuprofen, especially during the first three months of pregnancy.

What other symptoms should I look along with headache during pregnancy?

Deranged blood sugars, hypertension, and excessive vomiting might indicate a lot of underlying causes.

What do early pregnancy headaches feel like?

These headaches are usually dull but throbbing in character and might go away in a couple of hours if you take proper rest.

Last medically reviewed on August 31, 2022.