While it's not clear to doctors why some women get headaches during pregnancy and others don't, they do believe it's likely that it has something to do with the hormonal imbalances going on inside of you, along with an increase in blood volume and a greater strain on your circulatory system. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which is based on nature and is explained in terms of natural phenomena, most headaches during pregnancy are due to a combination of deficiency (your body being depleted to nourish the baby) and excess.
The most common type of headache during pregnancy is a tension type headache, where you might feel a squeezing in your head. These types of headaches are usually caused by stress, lack of sleep or poor diet, leading to a contraction of the muscles in your face, scalp, neck and/or shoulders. During pregnancy, your hormonal imbalances add to the list of potential causes, although fluctuations may subside by the second trimester.
Another common type of headache during pregnancy is the migraine. Migraines can be caused by odours, food sensitivities, and once again, hormonal fluctuations. Migraine headaches can be moderate to severe in terms of pain levels, and can last for a few days if untreated. You may also feel nauseous and sensitive to light and/or noise with a migraine, and you can even suffer from what are called tension-migraines, which are related to your musculature. Women who get migraines frequently may actually experience a decline in the numbers or severity of their headaches when pregnant.
While it's a good idea to avoid certain potential trigger foods such as MSG, nitrites, sulfites, artificial sweeteners, and any others that your nutritionist might recommend, acupuncture can be very helpful in relieving you of your pain and discomfort. Be sure to visit a Registered TCM Practitioner to get acupuncture treatment, as this person is best trained in pulse diagnosis (a means of determining the best course of treatment) and will know all of the points to avoid during pregnancy.
In terms of TCM, headaches are caused by a blockage of energy in your head, and the part of your head with the pain helps determine which meridian (pathway of energy) is affected. For example, headaches in the side of your head are usually along the Gall Bladder meridian ('Gall Bladder' is capitalized to differentiate from the scientific definition – just because there may be blockage here doesn't necessarily mean that you have issues with this organ). Also, pulse diagnosis and other symptoms will help clarify the type of headache you're experiencing by TCM standards. For example, heaviness in your head and a general feeling of sluggishness can mean that your headaches are being caused by blockage of Dampness, a thickening of your body fluids that can be corrected with some acupuncture. Dampness, by the way, is considered a sign of excess, although keep in mind that it can be caused by a deficiency of Spleen Qi. The sometimes complicated nature of TCM diagnosis is yet another reason to seek out a TCM practitioner to get the best possible diagnosis and treatment.
For more information, and to obtain your own free TCM diagnosis, contact us.
By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner
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