If you are a migraine sufferer, like me, you probably said, “Ha!” to the above, as you have likely tried all of the natural ways to relieve migraines, and now either rely on medications, or suffer during pregnancy when your medication may not be safe to take. Yes, I hear you loud and clear, but all the same, there are some effective, natural ways to tackle headaches in pregnancy.
First, let’s talk about causes of headaches in pregnancy. You will notice that at each and every one of your prenatal visits with us, we will ask you if you have been having headaches. The reason for this is that it is a screening question for preeclampsia, which is a complicated and dangerous condition that can affect women in pregnancy and the postpartum period. Whenever you are having unusual headaches, particularly towards the end of pregnancy, we always kind of pick them apart to determine if there is a concerning cause, or if these could be normal for you.
And then, there are all sorts of “normal” reasons why we get headaches in pregnancy. To begin with, many, many people suffer from migraines, and that would not change for most people during pregnancy. Some other common reasons for headaches include:
- hormonal changes
- dehydration (perhaps related to nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy)
- sleep problems
- muscle tension
- changes in blood volume
- low blood sugar
- inadequate nutrition
- changes in physical activity
- vision changes
- sinuses and allergies
- food triggers (nitrates, cheeses, chocolate – there’s a long list of possible culprits)
And probably a whole lot more. Our heads are so sensitive!
So, what do we do about them if we are trying to avoid medications? Here are a few ideas:
Try to Identify the Underlying Cause
This seems obvious, but I can tell you from experience as a headache sufferer that sometimes we are just miserable and flounder while we throw stuff at our headaches and hope it works, rather than trying to figure out the cause. For me, I often have to pry myself away from my computer and desk work to try to stop a migraine that is triggered by muscle tension. I also have to make sure I eat at pretty regular intervals, and avoid food triggers. For you, try to take a look at the whole picture and figure out what might set your headaches off.
If you have not already put some kind of grain bag in your freezer, do it now. I have cloth bags filled with corn, rice, flax, and millet of varying sizes and shapes to pull out when I need one. Try lying down with a bag at the base of your skull and one at the front of your head (or where the pain is). Close you eyes and rest this way for 20 or 30 minutes – it might help constrict the angry blood vessels and relieve the pain.
You can also throw these grain bags in the microwave if you want to try a warm compress (great for all manner of muscle aches, too!). A good time to do this is if you think your headache might be sinus related – some moist heat on the front of the head may bring some relief.
Exercise in general is a great thing to do to try to avoid headaches, but yoga in particular may be helpful to release tension in muscles. You can even find short videos that focus on the neck and shoulders – so wonderful!
Employing some self-massage techniques at the start of your headaches, such as these, can be a great help. As a preventative, keeping a regular appointment with a massage therapist is a wonderful option, if this is possible for you.
Some people (like me) are averse to smells when they have a headache, so oils may not be for them. But there are many people who swear by applying oils such as lavender and peppermint to the temples to bring headache relief.
Chiropractic and acupuncture
If it is an option for you to keep a regular appointment with these providers, there can be a great benefit to it. Keeping you body in good alignment can be key to prevention of headaches. Acupuncture can also be a good thing to try if you are in the middle of a monster headache – I have done it, and it has worked for me a couple of times.
We hope some of these ideas work for you!