10 Tips for Treating Headaches
By Laura E. Stachel
Headaches increase in frequency in pregnancy, often beginning in the first trimester. Hormonal changes, hunger, fatigue, and increases in blood volume during pregnancy can be contributing factors. So can increased fluid retention, which may exacerbate nasal congestion and sinus pain. In addition, stress and back strain can lead to tension headaches. Migraine headaches (which are vascular in nature) are sometimes less frequent during pregnancy, but many women who suffer from migraines get them even more frequently while they're pregnant.

Here are some suggestions to minimize or relieve headaches during pregnancy:

1) Try to get adequate rest. Prop yourself with pillows to find a comfortable sleeping position at night, and try to rest during the day when you are fatigued.

2) Drink plenty of fluids and eat healthy food frequently throughout the day.

3) Exercise regularly.

4) Release tension in the muscles of your back and neck. Take frequent breaks from sitting or standing to move around. Stretch your arms, shoulders and neck in various positions, trying to release areas of stiffness and tension.

5) Place a warm moist cloth on your forehead if you suffer from sinusitis. Try a cool compress on the back of your neck for tension headaches.

6) A professional massage can work wonders. If this is impractical, you can massage the muscles that feel tight in your neck or enlist your partner to massage your neck and head on a regular basis.

7) Avoid things that trigger your headaches. Cigarette smoke, stuffy rooms, prolonged computer use, eye strain, and fluorescent lights are some examples.

8) Go for a brisk walk outside and enjoy some fresh air every day.

9) Practice relaxation exercises. Lie in a quiet, darkened room and imagine tightening and releasing each of the major muscle groups in your body. Breathe slowly and deeply; imagine your breath flowing through each part of your body and relaxing any areas that feel tense. Learn to meditate!

10) Acupuncture can be an effective therapy for headaches ; look for a licensed acupuncturist in your area.

Many medications are not recommended during pregnancy. Avoid aspirin, and use acetaminophen (generic for Tylenol®) for headaches only as directed. Speak with your health care provider before using any other medications.

You also need to be aware that sometimes, headaches are signs of serious problems. If your headaches are severe, unrelenting, or accompanied by changes in vision or swelling, contact your health care provider immediately or head to an emergency room.