Last Updated on April 18, 2020 by Kinacle.

Headaches During Pregnancy: When Should You Worry?

Getting a headache, regardless if you’re pregnant or not, is not something any person welcomes with open arms. Having one makes it difficult to concentrate, messes up your balance at times, and makes you short fused.

So if you just found out that you’re pregnant, congratulations! Unfortunately, headaches are an inescapable part of pregnancy.

The reason why we decided to tackle this question though is due to the fact that many first time mothers tend to brush off headaches thinking that it is no different from any headache they had before they got pregnant – without them knowing that while uncommon, this could lead to something that could put their unborn child in danger.

Is It Normal For A Pregnant Woman To Have Headaches Everyday?

Yes, it is!

Although only 39% of women experience headaches tied to their pregnancy according to a report published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the figure is high enough to safely conclude that it is somewhat the norm.

There are several factors that contribute to headaches in pregnancy, and can be classified into two types: “primary” and “secondary” headaches.

Primary Headaches means that the headache happened naturally, and wasn’t triggered or as a reaction to complications associated with your pregnancy.

Tension Headaches on the other hand pertains to pregnancy related triggers – like high blood pressure for example.

So What Causes Headaches During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy induced headaches happens during the 1st to the 3rd trimester – a time where a woman’s body experiences a sudden surge of hormones and increased blood volume. These factors are more than enough to trigger headaches, which can be heightened further by shifts in ones vision, posture, or through stress.

Headaches can vary in intensity. From feeling a dull ache, a throbbing or pulsating sensation in the head, pain on one or both sides of the temple, sharp pain at the back of the eyes – to migraine like sensations that can trigger nausea, vomiting, seeing lines or flashing lights to having visual blind spots.

Common Causes Of Headaches During The 1st Trimester

  • Hormonal shifts
  • Increased blood volume
  • Weight shift
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stress
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Caffeine withdrawal
  • Poor nutrition
  • Low blood sugar
  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Light sensitivity
  • Vision related issues

Or can be triggered by the intake of food like: dairy, chocolate, cheese, yeast and tomatoes.

Common Causes Of Headaches During the 2nd And 3rd Trimesters

  • Weight gain
  • Posture
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Diet
  • Muscle strain
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes

As you can see, health problems are now at play. And this is where some women start to worry as high blood pressure can sometimes lead to more serious medical conditions like:

  • Stroke
  • Preeclampsia
  • Eclampsia

Or can lead to:

  • Low flow of oxygen to the baby
  • Preterm delivery
  • Placental abruption
  • Lower birth weight

How Can I Get Rid Of A Headache While Pregnant?

Technically, you can’t, but you can try to minimize, or alleviate, your situation.

The most common methods would be to:

  • Always try to keep your posture in check
  • Try to get a lot of rest, and try to relax more when you feel stressed
  • Start an exercise routine
  • Keep your diet in check, making sure that its well balanced
  • During headaches, use a heat or cold pack

You can also try to:

  • Use warm compress to soothe your eyes and nasal passage, or use cold compress for tension based headaches
  • Eat more meals, but with smaller portions
  • Massage your neck and shoulders
  • Rest or sleep in a dark room
  • Do deep breathing exercises
  • Take a warm bath or shower

When Should You Be Worried About Having Headaches During Pregnancy?

If it isn’t obvious enough, it’s when your blood pressure is beyond normal – and consistently stays that way.

Though you may already have high blood pressure before you became pregnant, you should take necessary steps to either minimize, and/or eliminate it, or it could lead to:

Gestational Hypertension

Also known as Pregnancy-Induced Hypertension (PIH) which affects around 8% of women. It manifests itself after the 20th week of pregnancy, and will only dissipate after childbirth.

The danger caused by this condition revolves around the placenta not getting enough blood supply – thus limiting the amount of food and oxygen to the baby – resulting in a lower birth weight.

Chronic Hypertension

The condition manifests itself after the 20th week of pregnancy. And because it doesn’t usually show any symptoms, there is usually no way to determine when it actually started,

By itself, the condition isn’t really that alarming. But if left untreated can evolve into Preeclampsia – a very dangerous and lethal condition.

Preeclampsia poses a serious threat to both mother and baby. The condition targets vital organs like the brain, liver, kidneys and also affects the blood – which could lead to brain damage, coma, and in some instances death.

How Does Preeclampsia Affects The Unborn Baby?

Premature Birth – due to the condition’s ability to disrupt the distribution of blood, which carries oxygen and food, to the placenta.

Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR) again has something to do with condition’s ability to disrupt the flow of blood to the placenta – thus making the baby malnourished or small in size for its age.

Though babies suffering from IUGR can eventually reach their appropriate growth size, research suggests that said infants are more prone to hypertension, diabetes and congestive heart failure.

Increased possibility of Acidosis – where the baby’s body tries to compensate for the lack of nutrients and oxygen by producing higher amounts of lactic acid. When this happens, the baby could become unconscious and forced delivery must be made to save the baby.

The probability of future health conditions are common for babies who experienced Preeclampsia. These conditions range from deafness, blindness, epilepsy, cerebral palsy to learning disorders.


If you’re still asking, “How do I know if my headache is serious?” after everything you’ve read, you’re asking the wrong question.

The point is, being absolutely healthy should be a constant priority during pregnancy.

So if and when you experience any headache during your pregnancy, inform your doctor and have yourself checked.

Besides, it’s not just your comfort that is at stake here, but the health of your baby as well.


This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Always consult with a doctor or licensed medical professional before making any medical decisions.

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  1. I can vividly remember my wife’s good friend Angela who had series of miscarriage as a result of stress associated with headaches she had and probably some other health complications. I told her one time that she wasn’t getting enough rest and it’s putting too much tension on her pregnancy. Sadly, it took a while and a few miscarriages before she learnt to give herself a break during pregnancy.

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