Your pregnancy and baby guide

Headaches in pregnancy

Some pregnant women find they get lots of headaches. They are most common in early pregnancy and usually improve or stop completely during the last 6 months.

They don't harm your baby, but they can be uncomfortable for you.

Headaches can sometimes be a symptom of pre-eclampsia, a condition that affects some pregnant women, usually from around 20 weeks of pregnancy or soon after the baby is delivered. Pre-eclampsia can lead to serious complications if it's not moitored and treated.

Call your midwife or maternity unit immediately if you have:

  • a severe headache
  • problems with vision, such as blurring or seeing flashing lights
  • pain just below your ribs
  • vomiting
  • a sudden increase in swelling of your face, hands, feet or ankles

Any of these could be signs of pre-eclampsia and need to be checked.

Coping with headaches in pregnancy

Paracetamol is the first choice of painkiller if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. It's been taken by many pregnant and breastfeeding women with no harmful effects in the mother or baby.

However, for safety, if you take paracetamol in pregnancy or while breastfeeding, take it for the shortest possible time.

You can get advice from your pharmacist, midwife or GP about how much paracetamol you can take and for how long.

Read more about taking paracetamol in pregnancy.

There are some painkillers you should avoid in pregnancy – such as those containing codeine, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen – unless prescribed by your doctor.

You can also make changes to your lifestyle to help prevent and treat headaches. Try to:

  • drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration
  • get enough sleep – read tiredness and sleep in pregnancy to find out more about tackling this
  • rest and relax – you could try a pregnancy yoga class, for example

Find out more about health problems in pregnancy.

Page last reviewed: 28/02/2018
Next review due: 28/02/2021