For many expectant mothers, pregnancy can be a headache -- literally. During the first trimester, a woman's body undergoes a hormonal surge and an increase in blood volume. These changes can cause frequent headaches, which can then get worse with many of the common hallmarks of pregnancy -- from stress, to poor posture, to fatigue and hunger, to the emotional rollercoasters you may experience while waiting for baby. So how can you tackle these pregnancy headaches?
Since you are pregnant, many of the medications you'd otherwise rely on are off limits, so you can't zap the pain by popping pills. But not to worry, there are many other tactics that can help rid yourself of all the throbbing. Here are 9 natural remedies to head off pregnancy headaches.
- Eat smaller, frequent meals. Good nutrition is an all-time must during pregnancy. But it's easier said than done. Many mamas-to-be experience loss of appetite -- along with its dreaded sidekick, nausea -- and end up eating less than they should. This can result in low blood sugar, which can in turn cause headaches. How do you prevent the onset of "hangry"? Nosh on smaller, more frequent meals like grapes, 1 slice of toast smeared with nut butter, or a 6oz yogurt with 1/4 cup of granola.
- Stay hydrated. Dehydration triggers weakness and vertigo and can even affect pregnancy hormones -- thus, inducing headaches. Keep a water bottle with you at all times and drink constantly so that you're body stays hydrated throughout the day.
- Try a cool compress. Keep an eye compress inside a Ziploc bag in your freezer. When and if you feel a headache coming on, close your eyes, cover them with the compress and rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Cold cucumbers can do wonders too, and they may even help reduce the appearance of bags and dark circles under your eyes.
- Go for a walk. Walking is a gentle form of cardio and an excellent way to increase blood flow and circulation, which can ward off pregnancy headaches. Not to mention, the fresh air could help you unwind and ease some of the discomfort. Just dress according to the weather so that you're cool and comfortable at all times.
- Go the alternative route. Prenatal massages can ease muscle tension, reduce joint pain and relieve tension headaches. In fact, any non-pharmacological options that can help you de-stress may also help you prevent pregnancy headaches. So if you feel prenatal massages don't do the trick, give acupuncture, meditation, reflexology or acupressure a try.
- Do prenatal yoga. Yoga is a great way to help you relax. What's more, it trains your body to sit, stand and rest in good posture and helps you focus on breathing techniques that can work through the intensity of headaches. Practicing yoga beyond pregnancy is also beneficial, as it can prevent postpartum depression and postpartum back pain.
- Breath or rub essential oils. Aromatherapy is known for its many health benefits -- from beating stress to helping you sleep at night. Well, some essential oils can also help alleviate headaches. Put two drops of peppermint or lavender oil on a tissue and breathe it in as often as needed. For an even more soothing effect, you can also rub eucalyptus oil on your temples and on your back so that the smell lingers a while longer. But remember that essential oils are very powerful plant-based remedies, so don't use more than three drops at a time when you are expecting.
- Cut back on Caffeine. After years of conflicting research, we still don't know how much caffeine is safe during pregnancy. What we do know is that caffeine crosses the placenta and can potentially harm the fetus. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology recommends that pregnant women limit their caffeine intake to 200 mg or less (the equivalent of an 11-ounce cup). If you are a java junkie, caffeine withdrawal can trigger headaches, irritability and fatigue. So it's best to gradually wean yourself. One way to do that is by mixing decaf with your regular coffee and slowly increasing the ratio of decaffeinated to caffeinated. If you are a tea enthusiast, opt for herbal tea or let the tea bag steep for just one minute instead of five.
- Sleep. This is particularly important during your first and third trimesters, when you are likely to feel uncomfortable and exhausted. Lack of sleep, which is especially common later in the pregnancy, can lead to other symptoms like depression, anxiety and tension headaches. So make sure you get enough rest. Try these methods to get the sleep that you need (and deserve!).