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Pregnancy headaches are quite common, especially during the first and third trimesters. Headaches can be attributed to hormones, increased blood volume and circulation, poor posture, wearing the incorrect bra size, dehydration, nutrition, stress, sinus pressure, high blood pressure and other health concerns. Aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc) aren't recommended when expecting, though acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be used occasionally for pregnancy headaches. But before you grab the bottle of pills, check out these natural headache solutions. You may be able to find relief without taking any medicine.
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Staying hydrated is extremely important, especially when you are pregnant or nursing. When you become dehydrated you can experience headaches, swelling, constipation, fatigue and it even can cause miscarriages and preterm labor. The American Pregnancy Association recommends 8-12 eight-ounce glasses per day. Drink up!
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Apply Heat and Cold
You can apply a hot compress to your forehead or cold to your neck to get instant headache relief. I like to fill a bag with flax seed or rice and heat in the microwave or oven. It also works great in the freezer. The cold compress numbs the applied area by restricting the nerves from sending discomfort signals to the brain. The hot compress relaxes your muscles. It is good to alternate between the hot and cold every 15-20 minutes. You can also put 2-3 drops of peppermint oil on the compress for extra relief. Be sure to talk to your ob-gyn or midwife about safe essential oils during pregnancy.
Go for a full body prenatal massage to relax your neck, back and shoulders. It’s important to go to a prenatal massage therapist since there are pressure points that can trigger labor. If you aren’t able to go to a therapist, there are simple massages you can do at home. You can try rubbing your shoulders, at the base of your skull and just beneath your wrist. Do not rub the acupressure point between your thumb and pointer finger. This can stimulate uterine contractions.
Exercise and Prenatal Yoga
Physical activity can help to prevent headaches during pregnancy. Among other health benefits, prenatal yoga helps you keep the correct posture throughout your pregnancy. Improper posture can lead to headaches, back pain, neck pain and many restless nights. Prenatal yoga also teaches breathing techniques and meditation which can help reduce the intensity of headaches. Be sure to use a prenatal yoga program or alert your yoga instructor that you’re expecting because not all yoga poses are safe while pregnant.
Choose the Correct Size Bra
Wearing the correct size bra is very important during pregnancy. “There are ligaments in your chest wall that support your breasts, and when your breasts are bigger and heavier then ever, those ligaments will stretch without the proper support,” says Shari Criso, a Registered Nurse, Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. When these ligaments are being pulled, it puts pressure on your back which can lead to headaches. Your breasts should stop growing at 12 weeks, though some grow until 20 weeks. So it’s safe to purchase a maternity/nursing bra after 20 weeks for the best support. To ensure you’re buying the right size, be sure to get a bra fitting.
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Other Prenatal Headache Tips
- Rest: Lie down in a dark room with your eyes closed. Be sure you are getting enough sleep at night for headache prevention.
- Food: Make sure you are eating healthy organic foods throughout the day. Headaches can come on suddenly when your blood sugar drops. It’s better to eat small meals throughout the day rather than three large meals.
- Chiropractor: A chiropractor can help you maintain good posture, help with abdominal pressure and help with pelvic changes. Make sure your chiropractor specializes in prenatal care.