Your pregnancy and baby guide

Headaches in pregnancy

Headaches in women are often caused by hormones, and many women who are not pregnant notice a link with their periods. 

Menopause and pregnancy are also potential triggers. Some pregnant women find they get a lot of headaches.

Headaches can get worse in the first few weeks of pregnancy, but they usually improve or stop completely during the last six months. They don't harm the baby, but they can be uncomfortable for you.

Coping with headaches in pregnancy

Changes to your lifestyle may help prevent headaches. Try to get more regular rest and relaxation. You could try a pregnancy yoga class, for example. If you're having problems sleeping, you can find out more about tackling this in tiredness and sleep in pregnancy.

Taking paracetamol in the recommended dose is generally considered safe for pregnant women. However, there are some painkillers you should avoid in pregnancy, such as those containing codeine, unless prescribed by your doctor. 

Speak to your pharmacist, midwife, GP, nurse or health visitor about how much paracetamol you can take and for how long. Find a pharmacy near you.

Learn more about whether you can take ibuprofen in pregnancy and paracetamol in pregnancy

When to seek help for headaches

If you often have bad headaches, tell your midwife or doctor so they can advise you. Severe headaches can be a sign of high blood pressure and you should seek urgent advice, as this could indicate a serious condition called pre-eclampsia. 

Pre-eclampsia is a condition that affects some pregnant women during the second half of pregnancy or immediately after the delivery of their baby.

Women with pre-eclampsia have:

  • high blood pressure
  • fluid retention (oedema)
  • protein in the urine (proteinuria)

If it's not treated, it can lead to serious complications. Pre-eclampsia can cause growth problems in the unborn baby.

Find out more about the symptoms of pre-eclampsia and treating pre-eclampsia.

Find out more about health problems in pregnancy.

Page last reviewed: 12/02/2015
Next review due: 13/02/2018