By the 16th week of pregnancy, headaches are usually not a problem for most women. As the second trimester progresses, a woman's hormone levels stabilize, which usually reduces the frequency and intensity of her headaches. Still, some women who are 16 weeks pregnant will experience headaches throughout their second trimester.
Why do Headaches Occur at 16 Weeks Pregnant?
Pregnant women usually experience headaches in the first and third trimesters. Less often, headaches are a problem for women during their second trimester. Stable hormone levels at 16 weeks pregnant might reduce migraine headaches for some women, but many pregnant individuals still experience tension headaches at this time. Other causes of headaches at 16 weeks include caffeine withdrawal, eating certain foods, or being sensitive to smells, says the March of Dimes.
The Role Hormones Play
By 16 weeks of pregnancy, increased blood volume and rising levels of hormones have caused many physical changes for a pregnant woman. High levels of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone affect brain chemicals, increasing the frequency of headaches that a pregnant woman experiences. These same hormones can also contribute to a condition called nonallergic rhinitis. Nonallergic rhinitis causes inflammation and swelling in the nasal cavities, which can lead to congestion and sinus headaches, says the American Pregnancy Association.
Sinus Headache in Pregnancy
Many women confuse sinus headaches with migraines during pregnancy, and it can be difficult to distinguish between the two. Sore throat, fever and coughing can accompany both migraine and sinus headaches, although nausea and a sensitivity to noise and light usually only accompany migraines. While migraine headaches can last for up to several days, sinus headaches can last for several weeks or longer. If a sinus headache persists for over 10 days, a pregnant woman should contact her doctor. He can advise her on the best treatments for sinus headache during pregnancy, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Tension Headache in Pregnancy
Tension headaches can crop up for women at 16 weeks pregnant, partly due to anatomical and physiological changes. The weight of her belly starts to throw a woman's center of balance off, and she may not be able to engage her core stomach muscles. This can cause poor posture, and lead to muscle strain in the head, neck, and shoulder areas. To counteract this, a woman should practice good posture during the second trimester. Massage and regular exercise can also help to reduce tension headaches, along with eating frequent, small meals, and staying well hydrated.
Migraine Headache in Pregnancy
Caused by dilating blood vessels in the brain, migraine headaches can be truly debilitating. Regular migraine sufferers may experience fewer migraine headaches during pregnancy, while women who have never had a migraine before start to experience them for the first time. Medications that are specially formulated to treat migraines are usually contraindicated during pregnancy and women who experience migraines at 16 weeks pregnant should talk to their doctors for treatment advice. Natural relief for migraines can be achieved by using a cold pack on the head and neck, or by receiving a massage, says the Mayo Clinic.