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Are headaches a sign of pregnancy?

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Quick Answer

One of the most common signs of pregnancy are headaches, caused by an increase in hormones, among other things. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid and manage them that are both safe and effective.

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Full Answer

Why are Headaches a Common Sign of Pregnancy?
Headaches are a normal sign of pregnancy mainly because of the increase in blood production and the sudden rise in hormones in a woman's body. They can also be brought on by bouts of extreme tiredness, hunger, higher levels of stress than is normal and sinus congestion, notes the American Pregnancy Association. Withdrawal from caffeine can also give rise to headaches if the mom-to-be has stopped drinking her regular cup of coffee. Other contributory factors include dehydration and poor posture. Headaches can occur at any time but are most common in the first and last 12 weeks of pregnancy. If the pain persists for hours at a time or worsens, it could be a cause for concern.

How Can a Woman Manage Headaches During Pregnancy
Headaches during pregnancy can be managed quite easily, and there is always the back up of acetaminophen if a woman's practitioner authorizes it. Tension headaches can be eased by resting up in a quiet, darkened room and placing a cold flannel at the base of the neck for about 20 minutes. Sinus headaches can be managed by placing a hot compress around the eyes and nose a few times a day and drinking plenty of water can help keep nasal mucus flowing. A warm shower, soak in the bath or a back and neck massage can help to relieve pain.

How to Avoid Headaches During Pregnancy
Headaches can sometimes be avoided during pregnancy and one way of achieving this is to eat regular meals and healthy snacks, to maintain blood sugar levels, states What to Expect. While it is important to get enough sleep, too much can leave one with a heavy feeling in their head. Observing the body's signs in response to certain foods that are eaten is also beneficial because one can then avoid potential triggers. Common trigger foods include preserved meat, yogurt, cheese and coffee.

Pregnant women are usually advised to stop drinking coffee while pregnant as too much caffeine intake can result in low-birth babies. Instead of going cold turkey, reduce the amount of coffee taken and wean the body off it eventually. The same applies to soda. Good posture prevents headaches and getting plenty of fresh air can keep them at bay. Alternatively, try meditation, breathing exercises or yoga to release stress and tension from the body.

When to Seek Help
Over the counter medications should not be taken during pregnancy and if a headache is severe or persists for hours at a time despite trying to quell the symptoms, a woman should seek advice from their practitioner. Warning signs to look out for include blurry vision, high blood pressure, swollen hands and face or shortness of breath. These signs and symptoms could be associated with preeclampsia, a pregnancy-related condition that has the potential to be life-threatening. Preeclampsia normally occurs after 20 weeks gestation and in most cases near a woman's due date. It affects around five percent of pregnant women in the United States, notes BabyCenter.

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