Headaches in pregnancy

Mild headaches can be caused by hormones and are common in pregnancy. You may also suffer from migraine in pregnancy.

How can I treat a headache in pregnancy?

If you have a mild headache, paracetamol tablets taken according to the guidelines on the packet are safe for you and your baby. Avoid tablets that contain added caffeine (sometimes sold with 'Extra' on the label).

What is the cause of headaches in pregnancy?

Headaches could be caused by dehydration. You should drink eight medium glasses of fluid a day. If you were prone to tension headaches before pregnancy you will probably continue to get them but they are unlikely to affect the baby.

If you are past 20 weeks and have a bad headache that lasts for more than two or three hours (particularly if not relieved by paracetamol), it could be an indication of high blood pressure, which is a symptom of pre-eclampsia.

When should I call a doctor or midwife about headache in pregnancy?

If your headache is accompanied by vision problems and bad swelling on your hands, feet, face or stomach, call your midwife/hospital/doctor immediately. 

If your headache is accompanied by pain while urinating or blood in the urine, you may have a urinary tract infection and need to be treated.

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  1. British Medical Association and London Royal Pharmaceutical Society, British National Formulary 62, London BMA and RPS, 2011
  2. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Hypertension in pregnancy, clinical gudeline 107, London NICE, 2011
  3. Patel NB et al, Urinary tract infections in women, London BMJ Best Practice, 2013. Also available from: http://bestpractice.bmj.com/best-practice/monograph/77.html (accessed 29 April 2014)
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Last reviewed on April 1st, 2014. Next review date April 1st, 2017.

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