A review published on The Obstetrician & Gynecologist revealed that "rarer and more severe" underlying medical conditions may trigger headaches in pregnant women, highlighting the need for healthcare professionals to consider these conditions when evaluating pregnant women, Medical News Today reported.
"Headaches are common in life and in pregnancy. Most headaches are benign, for example migraine or tension headaches, but some headache types can be more serious and an indication that something is seriously wrong," Kirsty Revell, a co-author of the review said.
"It is vital that both GPs and obstetricians are aware of the signs and symptoms associated with these conditions and know when to seek advice from a specialist," Revell added.
The review states that while most pregnancy-related headaches are considered benign-those which are not caused by organic underlying conditions as defined by the Piedmont Health Group-some cases could be linked to serious neurological conditions such as pre-eclampsia, idiopathic intracranial hypertension, and cerebral venous thrombosis (NYSE:CVT). Neurological conditions were ranked third among the most prevalent indirect and direct causes of maternal deaths, based on the Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths in the United Kingdom 2006 - 2008 report.
It is for these reasons the review's authors urge healthcare professionals to thoroughly examine pregnant patients with headaches to determine the need for neurological treatment or for further tests. The review's authors also advise medical staff to consider brain imaging when to test pregnant women with headaches to make sure any severe problems are found in time.
Idiopathic intracranial hypertension (NYSE:IIH), a rare condition common in obese, childbearing women caused by elevated pressure inside the skill, has been found to be linked to headaches in pregnancy. The condition, which manifests during pregnancy or co-morbid with other disorders, tends to be exacerbated by pregnancy. IIH could lead to death if not treated immediately.
Headache is also a common symptom of CVT, which is caused by a blood clot in the dural venous sinuses, the veins responsible for the out-flow of blood from the brain.
Pregnant women with migraines meanwhile are twice as prone to develop pre-eclampsia, a condition characterized by high blood pressure and increased levels of protein in urine.
Hormonal changes are blamed for migraine headaches in pregnant women, Web MD noted. However, the headaches are most commonly caused by a number of factors that include dehydration and hunger, stress and disturbed sleep patterns. When left untreated, these migraines could go on for a few hours to a day or two.
Common migraine occurrence decrease in women after pregnancy, the review noted.
Evaluation procedures for determining headaches as well as headache treatment are limited in pregnant women because of the risks they could pose to the woman's unborn fetus. CT scans and radiologic tests, for example, cannot be performed on pregnant women, Web MD emphasized. Pregnant women are also prohibited to take ibuprofen-the most commonly used painkiller for headaches and other types of pain-for a headache or migraine attack.
For immediate and safe headache relief, pregnant women can depend on cooling packs instead of waiting for the headache to subside. Different forms of cold temperature-absorbent packs such as ThermaPearl and Thermal-Aid Sectionals could do the job in helping pregnant women manage headache pain.