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tension headaches during pregnancy

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 Hi, I'm in the twenty second week of pregnancy, and suffer from terrible tension headaches. I have been prescribed by my doctor paracodal tablets which don't seem to be having any effect. Could you advise me of any herbal supplements that could help? Thanks, Jodi.

 Dear Jodi,

Due to the fact that you are pregnant, the list of herbal supplements that are safe for you to use is very limited.  However, there are some items that may be able to help.   In addition, even though the following list of supplements is thought to be safe during pregnancy I highly recommend you discuss them with your OBGYN before you start taking them to make they are safe for your particular situation.

Magnesium is thought to be safe to take during all phases of pregnancy and can be very effective at relaxing muscles related to tension headaches.  It is also thought that magnesium can also have a relaxing effect on the blood vessels in the head and neck that can be related to migraine headaches. 

Fish oil may not only be helpful for you, but is also helpful for your developing baby.  The essential fatty acids in fish oil help to reduce inflammation throughout the body.  Inflammation can contribute to muscle tension and worsen your headaches.  These same essential fatty acids, particularly DHA, are extremely important to ensure the proper development of you baby's brain and eye tissue.  If you are going to take a fish oil supplement, make sure it is molecularly distilled and guaranteed to comply with strict European standards for heavy metals, PCB's, dioxins, pesticides and other unwanted compounds.  This ensures that any toxins or heavy metals contained in the fish have been removed from the oil making it extremely pure. 

Lastly, the family of B vitamins, particularly B5 and B6 can be helpful to support the body and mind in its ability to reduce stress.  Because you are experiencing tension headaches I feel that having something to support your body's stress response may be helpful.  In addition, B6 can act as a mild diuretic which can help remove excess fluid from inflamed or swollen muscles. 

Most important is to understand why you are developing these tension headaches.  Are you in a situation where there is very high stress?  If so, what can you do to lessen that stress?  Is it a mechanical issue, such as poor posture or from carrying around a toddler?  If this is the issue, what can be done to lessen that stress on your body?

Prenatal massage may be a very option for you.  A qualified massage therapist should be able to offer you safe, effective therapy for relaxing the muscles around your skull and upper shoulders which can greatly reduce tension headaches.  It is also very relaxing mentally which is important for you to experience while your body is working so hard to make a beautiful baby. 

Prenatal yoga is also something you should consider.  Yoga will help to stretch the muscles in your upper and lower body and create more balance in your physical body.  It is also very relaxing and teaches you valuable tools of relaxation that can help you get through all phases of your pregnancy, including labor!  Yoga helps you get more in tune with your body and understand how to better control feelings of stress and pain. 

Back to all Questions     View More by Dr. Kevin Passero

Lead Medical Director

As a certified and fully trained Naturopathic Doctor, Passero has trained and preceptored with some of the nation's leading doctors in the field of natural medicine, working under the guidance of MD’s, Chiropractors, Naturopaths and Acupuncturists. Furthermore, he is currently the Vice President of the Maryland Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

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