Headaches in pregnancy are often resulting from some of the postural changes. They are more common in the first and third trimesters, but they can pretty much come at any time. Typically, if a mom was someone who was prone to having headaches prior to becoming pregnant, sometimes those things can be advanced and the headaches can become more common and more frequent due to those postural changes, the weight gain, and the center of gravity moving forward.
When the center of gravity moves forward the head is going to follow. The head is going to come forward and that is going to put a strain on the upper cervical musculature, particularly the ones that surround the atlas and axis, those top cervical vertebrae. When those vertebrae are out of alignment they can put pressure on those delicate spinal nerves, and/or even sometimes the brainstem, and that can be a significant cause of headaches. By correcting the alignment and alleviating the pressure on the nerve system, many times people will get relief from headaches, pregnant or not. But the headaches can come a little bit more frequently and be more pronounced during pregnancy due to the postural changes.
There is a type of headache that’s more significant later in pregnancy, usually coming on around the third trimester. If there is any history of high blood pressure in the family or for the mom, these are a little bit more common, and it’s associated with preeclampsia. These are headaches that usually come on much more severe and are associated with a little bit of swelling, maybe a fever, and elevated blood pressure or vision changes. When you start to see these things, we certainly want you to be evaluated by your ob gyn or medical doctor because those headaches are a little bit more significant and have a few other side effects and complications that need to be managed in the expecting mom.
But the rest of the headaches, the tension headaches, and the cluster headaches, all respond really well to chiropractic care. Also, balancing the cervical spine affects blood pressure and can help with the symptoms of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia still needs to be co-managed with your medical doctor or ob gyn and it’s very important to understand that.
Once we determine where the problem is coming from, we usually do a series of adjustments to correct the alignment and alleviate the pressure. By getting the pressure off the nerves typically the headaches are going to subside. That’s the most important thing because during pregnancy women really can’t be taking medications. They can’t be taking aspirin, Advil, and Aleve and all these things to alleviate pain because they share a common bloodstream with the baby, and most chemicals aren’t good for a developing fetus. So, minimizing the amount of medication a mom needs to take should result in a healthier baby as well.
Those are the primary ways that a chiropractor will help a pregnant woman with relief from headaches, but chiropractic care also helps with the mid-back and lower back pain, and also results in shorter delivery times and less need for interventions.
It’s just amazing, some of the phone calls we get after the moms deliver and talking about the relief they got and the kind words that people say. It’s really an honor to provide care for pregnant women. It’s a little bit different than the average person, but we have that knowledge and experience, and it’s always an honor to help people feel better during pregnancy, or even when they’re not pregnant, just helping people with headaches. It improves their quality of life, it improves their attitude, and improves all the outcomes.