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Pregnancy: Headaches and Preeclampsia

Topic Overview

Headaches are one of the most common pain-related health problems in women. You may have a headache along with another minor health problem, such as a sore throat, cold, or sinus problem. If your headache is mild and a type you have experienced in the past, there is little reason to be concerned. But a new or different headache, particularly later in pregnancy, may mean a problem such as preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia (formerly called toxemia of pregnancy) is a pregnancy-related condition that causes high blood pressure and affects the mother's kidneys, liver, brain, and placenta. Its cause is unknown. Preeclampsia most commonly occurs during first pregnancies.

Symptoms of preeclampsia include:

  • Persistent headache.
  • Vision problems, such as blurred or double vision.
  • Pain in the upper right abdomen.
  • Swelling of the hands and face that does not go away during the day. Some swelling normally occurs during pregnancy, but it may indicate a problem if other signs of preeclampsia also are present.

Call your doctor if you develop a new or different headache while you are pregnant.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Revised March 20, 2012

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