Headache is a common symptom that can occur anytime in pregnancy but presents most commonly in the first and third trimesters.
The cause for a headache in a pregnancy may be hard to pinpoint and many headaches may have no apparent cause. Suggested causes include:
- Hormonal changes and surges due to the pregnancy
- An increased volume of blood circulation due to pregnancy
- Change in sleep patterns
- Withdrawal of caffeine (particular if the mother reduces her usual coffee intake for the safety of the pregnancy!)
- Sinus congestion or infection
- Low blood sugar
- Posture changes (especially in the third trimester)
- Other causes
Do seek urgent medical treatment if:
- the headache does not improve or worsens with home remedies or paracetamol
- you develop a headache in the second or third trimester with spots in the vision/blurred vision with or without swelling especially in the face/arms/hands, with or without tummy pain. Admission to hospital to exclude pre-eclampsia may be necessary in these causes.
- you experience a sudden "explosive" headache, a violent pain that wakes you up, does not go away, or feels unlike any you've ever experienced.
- you experience a headache together with fever and/or a stiff neck. This may suggest meningitis, an infection of the coverings of the brain or spinal cord that can be life-threatening.
- you experience a headache associated with one-sided change/loss of sensation/weakness that may raise the possibility of a stroke
- you develop a headache associated with nasal congestion with pain and pressure under eyes / dental pain. These symptoms can suggest a sinus infection that may need to be treated by antibiotics.