Hormonal Changes Mean Pregnant Women May Suffer Fewer Headaches

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Many women report a decrease in headache frequency and severity as their pregnancies progressed.Pregnancy and Headache

Of the more than 45 million Americans who suffer from chronic, recurring headaches, the majority are women. According to the National Headache Foundation (NHF) there's good news for those women who are planning a pregnancy. Many women report a decrease in headache frequency and severity as their pregnancies progressed.

In a recent online survey conducted by the NHF, while 41 percent of respondents said they noticed an increase in the frequency of their headaches during their first trimester, 53 percent stated that those headaches decreased in frequency during their second trimester. The numbers changed slightly, to 45 percent noticing a decrease in frequency during their third trimester, and 48 percent said that their headaches increased in frequency again immediately following their pregnancies.

A woman's fluctuating hormone levels during and following pregnancy may account for
these changes. During the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, hormone levels stabilize. The drop in estrogen levels at delivery is one possible reason for the worsening headaches reported by survey respondents.

Hormones initiate and regulate many of the body's functions, keeping it in balance within a constantly changing environment. When the levels of hormones are unbalanced, during early pregnancy and immediately following pregnancy, it can lead to more frequent headache attacks. As hormone levels fluctuate throughout a woman's pregnancy, the frequency and severity of headaches may vary as well.

Hormones are not the only headache trigger for new mothers, however. According to Merle Diamond, MD, Associate Director of the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago, IL,
"Headache may reemerge after pregnancy not only because of hormonal changes, but also sleep deprivation and over stimulation from all the new changes in the household related to the addition of a new member."

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According to Michelle Parnes, a diagnosed migraine sufferer who is in the second
trimester of her pregnancy, "My migraines were definitely worse during the first trimester probably due to a variety of reasons including going off my daily preventive medications." She went on to say, "One of the most challenging aspects of pregnancy is medication management."

Because women suffer from headache, especially migraine, the NHF stresses the
importance of understanding headaches and learning what can be done to treat them. During pregnancy, medication restrictions are significant; therefore, pregnant women should consider non-medicated alternatives such as biofeedback, relaxation techniques and exercise, as approved by their physician. Before using any medication, a healthcare provider should be consulted.

The National Headache Foundation, founded in 1970, is a nonprofit organization
dedicated to serving headache sufferers, their families and the healthcare providers who treat them; promoting research into headache causes and treatments; and educating the public to the fact that headaches are a legitimate biological disease and sufferers should receive understanding and continuity of care.

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To learn more about headache causes and treatments visit the NHF Web site at www.headaches.org or call 1-888-NHF-5552 (M-F, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST). - Chicago, IL

For more information see Pregnancy

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