Pregnant women may get headaches. Typically the headache is mild and resolves with relaxation, hydration and over the counter headache medication - recommended by your doctor. But what about the headache that doesn’t go away, doesn’t respond to typical interventions and may be described as “the worst headache I’ve ever had?” Headaches of this nature can be a symptom associated with a disease in pregnancy called preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period and affects both the mother and the unborn baby. The disease only affects about 5-8% of all pregnancies, and is a rapidly progressive condition characterized by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in urine. Swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision are associated symptoms. Globally, preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death.
Typically, preeclampsia occurs after 20 weeks gestation although it can occur earlier. Proper prenatal care is essential to diagnose and manage preeclampsia.
If your headache symptoms don’t go away with typical interventions, please contact your provider.
Kathy Frigge, RN, MSN
Perinatal Clinical Nurse Specialist