5 Causes of Migraine During Breastfeeding And Its Treatment

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Migraine is a pounding pain felt on either side of the head. Some women experience migraines while breastfeeding too. However, the treatment for migraine may be different for lactating and non-lactating women although the symptoms remain the same.

Migraines can leave you disrupted for the entire day if not taken care of. Thankfully, certain over-the-counter and prescribed medications can help relieve its effects while nursing.

If you are a chronic migraine patient or suffer from migraine while breastfeeding, continue reading to learn how to cope with it. This post will tell you more about migraine in nursing women, including its causes, symptoms, treatments, and preventive measures.

What Is A Migraine?

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Mothers who suffer from migraines, feel intense throbbing and pulsating sensation around the head region. The prolonged head pain can even persist for 2-3 days, and you may suffer from a high level of discomfort.

Symptoms Of Migraine In Lactating Mothers

Typically, the major symptom of a migraine is a throbbing headache. Some other symptoms that indicate the onset of a migraine include (1):

  • Pain on one side or both sides of your head
  • Irritability
  • Neck stiffness

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Causes Of Migraine In Lactating Mothers

Let’s look at some causes of migraine during breastfeeding.

  • Hormonal Changes:

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that women are affected more by migraine due to hormonal changes (2). When you are breastfeeding, the body releases the hormone, Oxytocin. Oxytocin in the lactating mother’s body causes contraction of the milk ducts and triggers severe headaches. Oxytocin release triggers the condition of migraine headache in lactating moms.

Quick fact
A massive drop in estrogen levels after childbirth may also be responsible for migraine headaches in nursing mothers (7).
  • Sleep Deprivation:

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A lactating mom often experiences sleep deprivation, during her early stages of post-pregnancy. The condition of sleep deprivation is prevalent and triggers migraine headaches.

  • Stress:

Stress can lead to migraine headaches. You need to find enough relaxation time. Excessive stress can elevate the condition of migraine.

  • Phonophobia:

Individuals exposed to loud noises usually suffer from migraine headaches. As a new mom, you should avoid loud noises as they can lead to migraine pains.

  • Less Medication Available:

During lactation, you may use pain killers or other migraine medications only after consulting your doctor. Painkillers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen are usually considered safe but doctors may prescribe a daily limit that should not be exceeded by lactating women. With proper medical consultation, you can ask your doctor for a list of migraine medications, which are safe to consume during breastfeeding.

Point to consider
Dehydration is one of the leading causes of all sorts of headaches. Breastfeeding causes you to lose more fluids. So, drink enough water to prevent dehydration (7).

Medications To Cure Migraine In Lactating Mothers

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Your doctor may prescribe some safe migraine medications for lactating mothers. Sumatriptan is considered compatible with breastfeeding by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Some other medications include (3):

  1. NSAIDS – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Naproxen and Ibuprofen.
  2. Amitriptyline and Fluoxetine.
  3. Beta-blockers such as propranolol and nadolol.
  4. Narcotic drugs such as butorphanol, verapamil, and codeine.
  5. OTC Medications- Motrin, Tylenol, and other OTC medications are safe for lactating mothers.

The FDA approves the use of Botox (onabotulinumtoxinA) for treating migraine in adults, but you need to consult with your healthcare provider about its safety when you are lactating (4).

Medications To Avoid During Migraine In Lactating Mothers

If you are expecting and you suffer from migraine, you need to avoid medications like:

  • Painkillers such as Aspirin
  • Ergotamine
  • Antihistamines
Ditans, Gepants, CGRP monoclonal antibodies, opioids, and butalbital are other unsafe migraine medications for nursing mothers (7).

Preventing Migraine In Lactating Mothers

Here are some simple tips to prevent migraine during lactation:

  • Exercise Regularly:

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Excessive stress and an unbalanced lifestyle can trigger migraines in lactating moms. Light exercises like yoga or walking help release stress hormones from the body and prevent migraine headaches.

  • Avoid Triggers:

Migraine often occurs due to loud music or food odor. Try to stay in a peaceful environment and avoid consuming spicy or caffeinated food products.

  • Rest:

Sleep deprivation or disturbed sleep patterns can elevate the symptoms of migraines while breastfeeding. It is advisable to take adequate rest during lactation. Take short naps throughout the day and keep your mind relaxed and stress-free.

You can easily deal with migraine by following a well-balanced diet.

Migraine during breastfeeding might disrupt your everyday lifestyle and increase discomfort. You may experience headaches, irritability, neck stiffness, blurred vision, etc. Migraines in nursing mothers may occur due to hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, or stress. The condition may be more discomforting because lactating women have lesser choices in medicines. If you are dealing with a migraine during breastfeeding, talk to your doctor. They may prescribe Ibuprofen, morphine, Tylenol, or other safe options for your baby. However, the best way to deal with migraines is by exercising regularly and resting enough.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are postpartum migraines common?

Yes. Postpartum migraines are a common occurrence. Around one in four women are likely to have migraines within two weeks after childbirth, and almost half of them experience migraine attacks in their first month of delivery (5).

2. When should I go to the hospital for a migraine?

If you are experiencing severe symptoms of migraine accompanied by neck stiffness, vision disturbances, and troubled speaking, you should visit the doctor immediately (6).

3. How long do postpartum migraines last?

Postpartum migraines usually go away within five to six weeks post-delivery.

4. Can migraines affect milk supply?

There are no studies that indicate postpartum migraines affect the breast milk supply.

Infographic: Migraine During Breastfeeding

The hormonal changes, irregular sleeping patterns, or stress could put nursing mothers at an increased risk of migraines. Following the doctor’s advice on medication, identifying the triggers, and engaging in relaxative practices could help reduce the frequency of migraines.

The infographic below is a handy list of potential migraine trigger foods. It also includes information on a few concerning signs that need medical attention.

migraine during breastfeeding [infographic]
Illustration: MomJunction Design Team


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