Headaches under 20 weeks

There are many reasons why you might have a headache; most of these are unrelated to your pregnancy. Dehydration is one of the commonest reasons for developing a headache. It is important that you remain well hydrated during pregnancy and avoid dehydration, especially in hot weather  (6-8 medium glasses or 1.6L throughout the day). Try taking paracetamol at home; it is safe to take 2x 500mg tablets (1g) of paracetamol every 4 to 6 hours, not exceeding 4g in 24 hours. Do not take NSAIDS such as ibuprofen whilst pregnant.

Severe headache:

  • Always there and so bad it's hard to think or talk

  • You can't sleep

  • Makes daily life difficult to manage

Moderate headache:

  • Always there

  • Makes it hard to concentrate

  • You can manage to get up, wash or dress

Mild headache:

  • Comes and goes

  • You can manage to sleep

  • Is annoying but doesn't stop you doing things like going to work

Call 999 if you/ the pregnant women has a headache any of the following:

  • Having a seizure (fit)

  • Unable to speak

  • Sudden onset of severe headache reaching maximal pain within seconds

  • Any loss of consciousness

  • Neck stiffness/ pain or develop a rash that does not disappear with pressure (the ‘Glass Test’)

  • Numbness or weakness in arms and/ or legs

  • Drowsiness or confusion

Call your GP surgery or NHS 111 out of hours today if you have any of the following: 

  • Persistent moderate headache which is not relieved within 12 hours of taking regular paracetamol (2x 500mg tablets 4-6 hourly)

  • Visual or hearing disturbance, double vision

  • A temperature of 38°C or over (or feel hot to touch)

  • Your headache settles when taking regular paracetamol

  • Your headache improves when drinking enough fluids. (6-8 medium glasses or 1.6L throughout the day) or after a sleep

  • If you suffer with migraine and you are experiencing a typical migraine headache


Self care

Contact your GP surgery if you are still worried. Tell your community midwife at your next appointment.

Pain relief

Paracetamol 2x 500mg tablets (1g) 4-6 hourly not exceeding 4g in 24hours. Do not take NSAIDS such as Ibuprofen whilst pregnant.

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