Headaches

There are many reasons why you might experience a headache; not all of these are necessarily related to your pregnancy. Dehydration is one of the commonest reasons for developing a headache. It is important that you remain well hydrated during pregnancy, ensure you are drinking around 2 litres of water a day, especially in hot weather. Try taking simple pain-killers at home; it is safe to take 2x 500mg tablets (1g) of paracetamol every 4 to 6 hours, not exceeding 4g in 24 hours.

Severe headache:

  • always there and so bad it's hard to think or talk
  • you can't sleep
  • make daily life difficult to manage

Moderate headache:

  • always there
  • makes it hard to concentrate
  • you can manage to get up, wash or dress

Mild headache:

  • comes and goes
  • you can manage to sleep
  • is annoying but doesn't stop you doing things like going to work

For more information on local services please click here.

call an ambulance if you/your partner are:

  • Having a seizure
  • Experiencing weakness of arm/legs
  • Unable to speak

Attend A&E if you experience:

Dislike of bright lights

  • Neck stiffness or pain
  • Drowsiness or confusion
  • Visual or hearing disturbance
  • Any loss of consciousness/fainting
  • Feeling sick or vomiting
  • Fever over 38°C / 100.4°F

You need urgent help.

Go to the nearest Hospital Emergency (A&E) Department or phone 999

Call your maternity unit within 1 hour if you have:

  • Persistent severe or moderate headache which is not relieved with regular paracetamol (2x 500mg tablets 4-6 hourly).
  • Sudden onset of severe headache
  • Or if you have a headache with any of the following:
  • Epigastric pain (under your ribs on the right side not related to your baby’s movements)
  • Visual disturbances- these are usually “flashing lights” seen in front of the eyes- not related to standing up
  • Persistent swelling particularly around the face
  • Reduced baby movements
  • Vomiting
  • Pre eclampsia in a previous pregnancy
  • Concerns raised about your blood pressure at your last midwife appointment

Call your maternity unit within 1 hour

self care at home if:

  • Your headache settles with regular paracetamol.
  • Your headache improves after drinking extra water or after a sleep.
  • Swelling in your hands and feet that improves when lying down

For more information on pre eclampsia click here

Self care

Contact your maternity unit if you are still concerned

Maternity Unit

Your local maternity unit is staffed 24 hours a day with obstetrician s and midwives to help care for you, your baby and your pregnancy related health concerns. For some AMBER concerns it may be possible to be seen in a midwifery led unit if it is more convenient for you. For health concerns that are not related to your pregnancy you are advised to see your GP, call NHS 111 out of hours, or attend A&E if it is an emergency.

To find the contact numbers for your local maternity unit, please click here.

  • Labour line (maternity advice line) - Many maternity units provide women with a central advice line often called “labour line”. You are advised to call this number if you think you might be in labour. The phone is answered by a midwife 24hours a day. They will ask you questions, assess you and give advice. When the time is right they will arrange for you to attend your preferred place of birth, or arrange a midwife to come to you if you are planning a homebirth.
  • Community Midwife- Your community midwife provides you with all routine maternity care from your first “booking in“ appointment in early pregnancy to discharging you to the care of the health visitors when your baby is 2 weeks old. She will give you information on keeping you and your baby healthy during pregnancy and refer you to specialists if required.

Whilst you may have individual contact details for your community midwife, if you are concerned about your pregnancy we advise you call the maternity unit on the numbers provided because staff are available 24 hours a day. Please do not leave urgent voicemails or text on a community midwife’s phone.

GP (General Practitioner)

GPs assess, treat and manage a whole range of health problems. They also provide health education, give vaccinations and can arrange referral to a hospital specialist should you need it. Whilst pregnant, you will have regular appointments with a midwife but it is still important to continue with any ongoing care from your GP.

NHS 111

NHS 111 can ask you questions to assess your symptoms, give you advice or can put you in touch with a GP out of usual working hours.

Accident and Emergency

A&E departments provide vital care for life threatening emergencies, such as suspected heart attack or breathing difficulties. If you are not sure it’s an emergency, call 111 for advice.

Hide this section
Show accessibility tools