Skip to main content

Headaches in pregnancy

Headaches can be common in early pregnancy. They usually improve as your pregnancy goes on.

They do not harm your baby, but they can be uncomfortable for you.

A headache can sometimes be a symptom of pre-eclampsia, which can lead to serious complications if it's not monitored and treated. Pre-eclampsia usually starts after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Urgent advice: Call your maternity unit, GP or NHS 111 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 immediately.

Coping with headaches in pregnancy

Paracetamol is the first choice of painkiller if you're pregnant.

However, for safety, if you take paracetamol in pregnancy, 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.

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 try and 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 this
  • rest and relax – you could try a pregnancy yoga class, for example

Important: Coronavirus (COVID-19) update

If you're well, it's really important you go to all your appointments and scans for the health of you and your baby.

If you're pregnant, hospitals and clinics are making sure it's safe for you to go to appointments.

If you get symptoms of COVID-19, or you're unwell with something other than COVID-19, speak to your midwife or maternity team. They will advise you what to do.

Find out more about pregnancy and COVID-19

Page last reviewed: 8 April 2021
Next review due: 8 April 2024