12.3.6 Headaches and migraines
Headaches are common in pregnancy, but are usually harmless. Headaches may stop if the woman rests and relaxes more, drinks more juice or water, or gently massages her temples. It is OK for a pregnant woman to take two paracetamol tablets with a glass of water once in a while. However, headaches late in pregnancy may be a warning sign of pre-eclampsia, especially if there is also high blood pressure, or swelling of the face or hands. Pre-eclampsia is discussed in detail later in this Module, in Study Session 19.
If you suspect pre-eclampsia, refer the woman to the nearest health facility immediately.
Some women have migraine headaches. These are strong headaches, often on the side of the head. The woman may see spots and feel nauseated. Bright light or sunshine can make them worse. Migraines may get worse in pregnancy.
Unfortunately, migraine medicine is very dangerous in pregnancy. It can cause labour to start too soon, and it may also harm the baby. It is better for a pregnant woman with a migraine to take 500 to 1,000 mg (milligrams) of paracetamol with a glass of water, and rest in a dark room. Although coffee and black tea are usually not healthy in pregnancy, they are OK occasionally, and they may help to cure a migraine.