Why read: Try these natural remedies for pregnancy headaches to get constant relief without having to rely on medication.
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Unlike the first time, my second pregnancy started with excruciating headaches. All I wanted to do is lie down in a dark quiet room without being disturbed.
Are you going through the same thing?
I can so relate!
“So what is happening?” you might wonder. “And are daily headaches normal during pregnancy?”.
Here’s the thing.
Headaches when expecting are very common. Pregnancy takes a huge toll on our bodies, and we all react differently. Things might be even different from one pregnancy to another, like in my case.
And there are a lot of reasons that you might be having a headache during your pregnancy. It’s always a good idea to talk about it with your doctor. So that your ob/gyn rules out any issues that might need medical attention.
After that, you’ll know this is another pregnancy discomfort you need to cope with.
And because it’s best to avoid ANY medication, if possible, during pregnancy, I have a list of natural remedies you can try to get some relief from the pain.
The good news is that they go away for many women after the first trimester.
It’s something magical! As soon as I stepped into my 4th month, all my pregnancy headaches were gone.
What Causes Pregnancy Headaches?
Before looking into all the different natural ways you can try to reduce headache pain – or even better prevent it altogether – it’s important to understand what some of the main triggers might be.
- Dehydration – Your body needs all that water to create the huge water sack around your growing baby. Add 2-4 more glasses to your daily water intake during pregnancy.
- Missed meal – Try to eat small but regular meals or at least have plenty of healthy snacks to go to if you feel hungry. Not only can missed meals cause headaches but also low blood sugar, dizziness, etc.
- Certain foods or odors – If you notice a connection between certain foods or smells and your headache, avoid those. For instance, I can’t stand the smell of my regular perfume now that I’m pregnant. So no perfume for me.
- Lack of sleep – It’s important to follow a regular sleep schedule. If you can have short afternoon naps, even better. Try to unplug from electronics and TV at least an hour before your bedtime so that nothing interferes with your sleep.
- Exhaustion and stress – If you’re the type of person that will push through and go go go. Take your headaches as a sign from your body to slow down. This is the time to take good care of yourself. You might be in denial but sooner or later you’ll realize that you can’t continue doing as much as you used to before getting pregnant. So give yourself some slack, slow down and make sure you find time to rest well, eat well and take good care of yourself.
Now that we’re clear about some of the causes, let’s look at all the natural remedies that can help with your pregnancy headaches.
I know I talked about water above but it’s so important I want to mention it again. You need a ton of water when pregnant! Like so much that your pee is clear. From personal experience, it seems to me that staying hydrated is a sneaky culprit. Sometimes I’d get so busy I’d forget to drink water. This is such an easy fix, but somehow I often overlook it!
What helps is snacking on fruits and vegetables that have high water content – melons and watermelons, cucumbers, tomatoes, celery, lettuce.
Of course, there’s no need to overdo!
Just add 2-4 more glasses to your daily water intake and you’ll be good.
You probably know how important electrolytes are for keeping our body hydrated.
And because we’re more prone to dehydration when pregnant it’s important to not only drink lots of water but regularly replenish our electrolytes intake. Especially with a severe morning sickness that causes you to throw up a lot, you lose a lot of electrolytes.
Electrolytes are minerals in our body – sodium, potassium, chloride, and calcium – that help balance the amount of water in our body. Low electrolyte levels cause headaches, fatigue, nausea, muscle cramps, low energy. So by keeping a healthy electrolyte level, you might not only get relief from headaches but also from feeling nauseous.
But don’t hurry to get yourself a sports drink. While those are high in electrolytes, they also contain a lot of sugar and food coloring which you obviously want to avoid.
Instead, eat lots of electrolytes-rich food – bananas, avocado, sweet potato, dairy products, seeds and nuts, pickled foods.
If you feel particularly dehydrated – like when your mouth and tongue feel dry after throwing up all morning – you can get a quick boost of electrolytes. Drink some coconut water! It’s one of the richest sources of electrolytes and completely safe for pregnancy. And while coconut water is really a miracle drink for pregnant women again don’t overdo it. Always use it in moderation.
Many pregnant women – myself included – switch to decaf coffee as soon as they find out they’re pregnant. While this is the right thing to do, for someone who is an everyday coffee drinker this can be a tough adjustment. If you feel your body craves caffeine, you might allow yourself a cup or half a cup of coffee. And then reduce your caffeine intake more gradually.
While caffeine isn’t recommended during pregnancy, 200 mg is considered safe. Most ob/gyns give OK for caffeine during pregnancy to relieve headaches. It’s certainly better than any medication.
And if you can’t stomach the caffeine load from coffee due to acid reflux, try having a Coke instead. It sounds weird but drinking a Coke can ease the pain. Somehow the combo of the caffeine, carbonation, and sugar works for headache relief. I don’t even drink soda generally but I Fƒ a 6 pack of Coke in the fridge at all times during the first trimester. It won’t cure a bad migraine, but it takes the edge of mild ones.
You can also turn to chocolate when you have persistent headaches. Whether because of the caffeine or just because it boosted my morale, it always helped! Chocolate cake, Nutella – whatever it is that makes you feel good and happy 🙂
All kinds of weird things might happen when pregnant. I’ve never had Sinus problems in my life. But with my second pregnancy, I constantly feel congested, my throat is irritated causing a bad cough. This would disturb my sleep at night and cause headaches.
And it made a huge difference! I sleep way better now.
#5 Shower or Warm Bath
On some days I’d shower 3 times a day because it would just soothe my whole body and bring relief with my headache. Warm showers helped relieve my congested sinuses too.
A warm magnesium bath with Epsom salt was another surefire way for me to release tension and feel relaxed. Plus a bath with Epsom salt is detoxifying and boosts immunity which is also great for when you’re pregnant.
Note: When taking a bath remember that water needs to be lukewarm. It’s not safe – and can lead to birth defects – to get into a hot tub that can raise your body temperature above 101°F.
#6 Warm and Cold Compress
Warm compress across the eyes and nose can be very relieving.
I also used ice packs where my neck met my skull at the base and it was the best relief. Put another ice pack on your eyes and try holding one in your hands if you can. So the blood flows to your extremities. Alternatively use an ice eye mask, put in the freezer and then use it as an ice pack.
A combination of both the warm and cold compress at the same time also works great. Run hot water on your feet while you put an ice pack on your neck. The heat on your extremities pulls the blood from your head relieving your head pains.
#7 Dark Room and Relaxing Music
If you can let yourself have a nap or just lie in the dark with an eye mask and warm compress go for it. This was all I wanted to do during the first three months of my pregnancy.
After I’d take my son to preschool, I’ll come home and just lie in the dark listening to relaxing music and meditating. This would give me the strength needed to spend the rest of the day running around with my active 4-year-old and answering to his million “why”s a day.
#8 Stretches and Massages
A lot of headaches are due to tensions in the neck, shoulder and back areas. So doing neck stretching exercises can help with reducing the tension. Or you can also try an inflatable neck stretcher. It helps relieve pressure from the neck and shoulders which will result in less headache too.
Another great remedy to ease the tension is prenatal massage. Even if you can’t afford to get a full massage from a professional, having your husband massage your feet or the neck area can do wonders. Or you can just invest in a neck and shoulder massager. Not only will it help with your pregnancy headache but also with relaxing and relieving stress after a long day. So it’s a cool thing to have even when not pregnant.
As a girl from post-Soviet country, I swear by this acupressure mat. We had this in our house since I was little and my parents would constantly use it to relieve pain in the back, head, and any other areas of the body. You just need to lie on it for 10-30 minutes and feel the difference. The best natural pain reliever out there! Trust me!
#9 Hot Air Pressure
Use your hair dryer (low, warm setting) on the back of your neck/base of skull… once you’re comfortable, increase the heat. Heat the area like you’re drying your hair (distance not too close to burn the scalp, but not too far away either). I usually heat until my whole body feels warm like I’m sweating. then it’s time to stop.
When you’re having a particularly bad headache, ask your husband to do this for you for some relief.
#10 Muscle Rub
While muscle rubs offer pain relief for muscles and joints, they also work great as a natural headache remedy. Chiropractors normally recommend rubbing Tiger balm on the forehead and cold compress on your neck. However, Tiger Balm contains camphor, which is not safe during pregnancy.
The pregnancy-safe version of Tiger Balm is Lucky Tiger. The little container is very convenient to carry it around in your purse. Just apply a small amount on your forehead and you should feel constant relief.
#11 Vicks Vapo rub
Trying putting a little Vicks Vapo rub in a bowl of hot water. Place a towel over your head and bowl and breathe in the vapors, as much as you can take it. Then repeat.
#12 Magnesium or Iron Supplements
If you try and try all kinds of methods and nothing seems to treat your pregnancy headache, you should speak with your ob/gyn to test for anemia. Getting enough iron during pregnancy is extremely important, so topping up on iron-rich foods is always a great idea. But if you do test positive for anemia, your ab/gyn might prescribe iron supplements. Or you can change your prenatal vitamins and go with a different brand that contains more iron. Try eating a lot of different kinds of beans, hummus, and leafy greens.
Your ob/gyn might also prescribe 400 mg daily Magnesium glycinate. For many magnesium supplements brings constant relief.
If you don’t want to take a supplement though, eat food high in magnesium and iron and drink peppermint tea (read the next section).
#13 Peppermint Tea
Peppermint is high in magnesium. So if you’re like me who always looks for natural substitutes to supplements peppermint tea is a great and delicious way to level up on your magnesium intake. I love teapigs peppermint tea. It’s so tasty and tea bags are really cute too.
#14 Essential Oils
The right combination of essential oils can soothe even the worst headache and migraine. This blend from Saje is said to do wonders but it’s been sold out for a long time and is still not available at the time of me typing this blog post. So I couldn’t get it for myself to check if it works.
I found a similar roll-on on Amazon from Plant Therapy and it did bring me some relief. Plus, it’s way more affordable.
I also heard praises of Deep Blue Rub by doTerra.
Use either one of these roll-ons on your forehead, bridge of your nose, and along cheekbones when you get a really bad headache.
# 15 No Contact Lenses
About a month ago I was talking to another pregnant woman at a playground. When I started to complain about my headaches she mentioned that in her case contact lenses were to blame. Her eye doctor explained that we get more sensitive to light when pregnant. This causes us to squint more irritating eyes if wearing contacts and causing a headache.
Once she stopped wearing her contacts, the headaches were gone. If you wear contacts try switching to glasses to see if this brings you some relief.
Acupuncture and Physical Therapy as Natural Remedies for Pregnancy Headaches
It’s always good to talk about your headaches with your healthcare provider. You might be referred to a chiropractor. Check your insurance to see how many sessions you have covered and take advantage of those. This might be the answer to your head and back pains too.
Safe Medication for Pregnancy Headaches
I myself never got to the point where I absolutely had to take pain killers. I’d rather try 10 different home remedies than any medication, especially taking into account the big side effects of acetaminophen.
But if nothing helps and there’re days that you’re too miserable and in need of quick and constant relief, Tylenol and Datril (Acetaminophen) are considered safe for pregnancy. Make sure you have the OK from your doctor before taking any medication, including herbal treatments.
Note: Ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin and Aleve should be avoided in pregnancy, especially during 2nd and 3rd trimester.
When to Call Your Doctor
A sustained headache that doesn’t respond even to medication can be a sign of preeclampsia. So don’t wait to call your doctor if your headaches don’t go away no matter what you try.
One Last Thing
When things get particularly hard just remind yourself that this is temporary. Make sure you take good care of yourself. If you have kids this is not the time to feel guilty for not being able to be the perfect mom and entertain them 24/7. So just stick them in front of the TV, iPad or whatever activity they can do on their own. Or ask help from your husband, grandparents, friends.
Do whatever it is so that you have a little me time and rest daily, preferably in a dark room.
For the times that my boy was particularly adamant of staying alone and watching TV so that I could nap, I’d just have him play next to me while I’d have a cat nap on the couch.
What About You
Are there any other natural remedies for pregnancy headaches that helped you? Please share with us in the comments so that we can give it a try.