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Do you have a third trimester headache?

If so, you might be wondering why and what you can do about it. From over-the-counter medication to home remedies, what’s safe for headaches while expecting?

In this guide, you’ll learn why third trimester headaches happen, remedies to use, and when to see a doctor.

Third Trimester Headache Causes

Headaches can happen anytime during pregnancy. Some people experience headaches throughout all trimester, while others don’t experience them at all. It can be hard to predict. Research shows that women with regular migraines may have fewer, the same, or more migraines while pregnant

The causes of a headache during pregnancy may depend on which trimester you’re in. Although first and second trimester headaches tend to be caused by hormones and increased blood volume, third trimester headaches are often the result of poor posture and tension from carrying extra weight, according to research.

Most times, pregnancy headaches are an annoyance, but nothing to worry about. However, sometimes headaches may point to a serious problem that requires medical attention.

Below are the possible causes of a pregnancy headache.

  • Changing hormones can trigger headaches. However, this is more likely the cause during early pregnancy when hormones are changing more rapidly.
  • Increased blood volume. Another cause of pregnancy headaches could be increased blood volume. Again, this is usually a cause in the early stages of pregnancy as your body adjusts.
  • Not getting enough fluids can cause headaches. This is more common in the first trimester when morning sickness can deplete your hydration levels.
  • Added tension from weight. In the third trimester, your big baby belly adds extra weight to your back. This creates extra tension.
  • Poor posture. Did you know that poor posture can lead to headaches? Not sitting properly can add tension to your upper back, neck, and shoulders. This can eventually cause a throbbing headache. Unfortunately, your posture may get worse during pregnancy from the added weight of your belly. You might be slouching when sitting or standing. You also may be sleeping out of alignment.
  • Lack of sleep. Consider if lack of sleep may be causing your headaches. In the third trimester, your belly might be interfering with your sleep quality, making it hard to get comfortable. Studies show that the rate of insomnia increase as pregnancy progresses and is often worst in the third trimester. Sleep disturbances are linked to tension headaches and migraines, according to research. Fatigue—a common pregnancy symptom—may also cause headaches.
  • Pregnancy congestion. During pregnancy, nasal congestion and a runny nose are common. This can lead to a sinus headache. A sinus headache usually feels like pressure around your eyes, forehead and/or cheeks.
  • Experts believe one reason pregnant women get headaches is because of stress. This may be a cause in the first trimester, when you first find out you’re pregnant and your life is changing. However, it can also be a cause of third trimester headaches. During the later stages of pregnancy, you might be stressed about preparing for maternity leave, going into labor, and welcoming a new baby in the next few weeks. All of this stress may cause or worsen a headache.
  • Severe headaches in the second and third trimester may be caused by high blood pressure, AKA preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is defined as high blood pressure during pregnancy after 20 weeks. The condition can affect your organs and your baby. It requires medical attention and monitoring by your doctor. Other than a severe headache that doesn’t go away, other signs of preeclampsia include vision changes, pain under your ribs, sudden swelling, and nausea. It’s also important to note that some people don’t experience any preeclampsia symptoms (which is why it’s important to attend prenatal appointments).

When to Contact the Doctor

Headaches are usually a normal part of pregnancy and aren’t a cause for concern. However, if remedies don’t help and the pain doesn’t let up, it may be a sign of something more serious.

If your headache becomes severe or doesn’t go away, contact your doctor to determine the cause. It’s also a good idea to keep your doctor updated on symptoms you experience during each prenatal appointment.

Consider that a sudden headache starting after the 20th week might be a sign of preeclampsia. If you suspect this could be the cause, talk to your doctor. If you notice any other symptoms of preeclampsia, seek medical attention immediately. Although rare, without treatment, pre-eclampsia may lead to convulsions, stroke, or HELLP syndrome.

Third Trimester Headache Remedies

If you have a third trimester headache or are trying to prevent one, consider these tips below.

Correct Your Posture

As your growing baby belly gets bigger, the added weight can make your posture worse. Since your posture can cause back pain and even headaches, it’s important to keep in mind.

Try to be more conscious of your posture by checking in with yourself. Are your ears, shoulders, hips, and knees in a straight line? When you notice they’re not, correct it.

Good posture counts when you’re sitting, standing, and lying down.


  • Don’t slouch, slump down, or lean forward
  • Position your neck and shoulders in line with your hips
  • If you can, get up every hour to walk around


  • Stand with your neck and shoulders in line with your hips and knees
  • Switch standing positions often
  • Avoid standing for long periods if you can


  • Keep your body in alignment while laying on your side. Keep your head and shoulders in line with your hips
  • Use regular or pregnancy pillows to provide support
  • Consider how your mattress is affecting your sleeping posture

Get Better Sleep

Since headaches can be caused by a lack of sleep, making sure you get plenty is a good idea.

During pregnancy, getting a good night’s sleep can be made difficult because of your belly. If this is causing pregnancy insomnia, try experimenting with pregnancy pillows to improve your comfort.

Sticking to a schedule is also important for quality sleep. While you’re expecting, you might feel that you need more sleep, so consider going to bed earlier. Also consider opportunities to take a nap, especially on weekends.

If you’re having trouble getting sleep during pregnancy, read our guides:

Avoid Triggers

If a pregnancy side effect is causing your headaches, avoiding triggers may not stop the pain. However, limiting triggers may prevent headaches from worsening and may encourage them to go away faster.

Common headache triggers include:

  • Scents (perfume, cleaners, air fresheners, etc.)
  • Bright light
  • Food triggers, like chocolate, cheese, preserved meats, peanuts, etc.

Consider keeping a journal to track triggers and symptoms. Spotting a connection could help you identify the culprit.


Third trimester headaches can also be caused by fatigue and stress. As you ramp up preparing for a baby and labor, your stress might be running high. Your life is changing and it’s understandable you’d be nervous or anxious about it.

Self-care and self-compassion during this time means giving yourself relaxation time. Relaxing can also help you combat fatigue, another cause of headaches.

Between baby preparation, take some ‘me’ time by doing something you enjoy. That may include:

  • Taking a bath
  • Reading a novel
  • Crafting
  • Exercising
  • Yoga or stretching
  • Gardening
  • Meditating
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Watch your favorite show or movie

Use a Warm Compress for Sinus Headaches

If you have a sinus headache, try a warm compress. Place a warm washcloth over the bridge of your nose and your forehead for about 15 minutes. It should reduce swelling, clearing your sinuses and relieving pressure.

Use a Cold Compress for Tension Headaches

If you have a tension headache, try a cold compress or icepack placed at the bottom of your neck. Keep it in place for about 15 minutes.

Get a Prenatal Massage

Consider getting a prenatal massage to help with your pregnancy headaches. Research shows that massage therapy may help alleviate and reduce the frequency of headaches.

Go to a Dark Room

When you have a throbbing third trimester headache, find a dark place to relax. Since light will only aggravate your pain, try drawing the shades and limiting the light from devices.

Stay Hydrated

Since a lack of fluids can cause headaches, make sure to stay hydrated. For tips, read 17 Hydration Hacks: How to Keep Hydrated During Pregnancy.

Talk to Your Doctor About Taking Acetaminophen

It’s usually safe to take acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain during pregnancy. However, make sure you get the ‘okay’ from your doctor first.

Summary: Third Trimester Headaches

Headaches in the third trimester can be caused by a variety of factors, like tension, posture, lack of sleep, and stress. Luckily, the pain can be managed by several home remedies listed above.

Although third trimester headaches aren’t usually a cause for concern, sometimes they’re a sign of something serious. Headaches that are severe or don’t go away could be a sign of pre-eclampsia. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms to identify the cause.

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