Postpartum Headaches: Causes and Treatments



Just when you thought you’d get a break from all the aches, pains, and difficulties of pregnancy, postpartum symptoms start to kick in. One particular symptom that almost 95% of mothers experience within the first eight weeks is postpartum headaches.

What are Postpartum Headaches

For some women, headaches might not come as a surprise if they’ve experienced them before childbirth. But along with many other changes that happen to your body during pregnancy, hormonal levels also affect the frequency and the intensity of your headaches.  However, many other women with no prior headache or migraine history are caught off guard with the crippling pain.

There are two types of postpartum headaches that a mother can develop: tension headaches and migraines.

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are caused by tight or contracted neck and scalp muscles. Muscle contractions might occur as a result of stress, sadness, a concussion, or worry. It can come as a result of postpartum back pain. 

They can affect anyone at any age, although they are more frequent in adults and older teenagers. The pain usually starts to occur in the neck and travels through the entire head. The pain is only moderate and can feel like a rubber band around your head.


The exact cause of migraines is unknown, but they’re thought to be the result of abnormal brain activity temporarily affecting nerve signals, chemicals, and blood vessels in the brain.

The most essential initial step in managing migraine symptoms for new mothers is to take them seriously.

Sleep deprivation might increase your chances of getting a migraine.

It’s critical for new moms suffering from migraines to prioritize their own health – you can’t provide your kid the greatest care if you’re in severe agony.

Postpartum migraine pain is intense and can occur on only one side or both sides. Light sensitivity is at its highest, and it is possible to experience flashing lights, blind spots, and even numbness in the body.

Causes of postpartum headaches

After you give birth, plenty of physical and lifestyle changes occur that could contribute to the occurrence of a postpartum headache or migraine.

Many of the lifestyle changes that occur with a new baby are the same ones that might aggravate migraines.

A potential trigger is sleep loss caused by baby care. Some women may report that their headaches were a little bit worse in the postpartum period, which might be because they don’t have the option of going into a quiet, dark room to relax or sleep.

The most common reasons why a mother might get one are:

  • Hormones
  • Stress
  • Lack of food and water
  • Exhaustion
  • Eyestrain
  • Allergies and sinus issues
  • Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding and Headaches

New mothers experiencing a migraine or headache can have something to do with the fact that they are breastfeeding.

Some studies suggest that when a lets down happens, the surge of oxytocin can trigger a headache.

Breastfeeding women can also get a postpartum headache from being physically and emotionally drained from the duties of breastfeeding. Lastly, the lack of hydration that can happen from breastfeeding may also be a reason.

Symptoms of postpartum headache

The symptoms of a headache after childbirth can vary depending on the intensity. You’ll recognize if you have a headache or migraine if you have the following symptoms:

  • Pressure
  • Aching
  • Pounding
  • Tightening
  • Throbbing
  • Pain around your eyes

In the case of a migraine, accompanying these symptoms are:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Sensitivity to sound and light
  • Vomiting


When a headache comes along there are several things you can do to help minimize the pain or get rid of it completely.

Many new mothers are concerned about drugs interfering with nursing, however, there are migraine therapies that are safe to use and do not show in breast milk. Several migraine-specific medicines, such as triptans, are safe to take while nursing, as are Tylenol, ibuprofen, and other NSAIDs. In addition, some evidence shows that nursing may lessen the incidence of migraines. Always consult with your doctor before taking any medication while breastfeeding.

For the most part over the counter medication will do the trick.

However, women who are breastfeeding should be extra careful since some medications might be harmful to the baby.

If the headaches are frequent, make sure to consult with your doctor as they might prescribe breastfeeding-safe medication. Some women also suggest that caffeine can be an effective treatment.

How to prevent postpartum headaches

The best way to battle a headache is to prevent it in the first place or at least tackle it head-on as soon as you notice any symptoms. If you want to stave off a headache, you can try some of these tips.

  • Alleviate stress
  • Get enough rest
  • Take a nap
  • Pay attention to your diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Take care of your eyes
  • Watch your posture

When to see a doctor

For the most part, headaches and migraines go away after a few hours. However, if you notice that the headaches are more common than not, or if the headache lasts longer than 24 hours, contact your doctor. This could be an indication of a serious headache or another medical condition.

You should call a doctor if along with all the other symptoms you also experience the following:

  • Fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Blurry vision
  • Seizures
  • Headache getting worse
  • Headache after exertion
  • Change in headache pain, pattern, or severity


After childbirth is not uncommon for the vast majority of mothers to have postpartum headaches up to 8 weeks after birth. Headaches can come in the form of tension headaches or migraines. Symptoms are similar for both types, but migraines tend to be more intense and can also cause vomiting or nausea. Both are in most cases treatable with medication and usually go away after a few hours. It is possible to prevent headaches from occurring if you get enough rest, minimize stress, pay attention to your diet, and hydrate. It is possible that extremely intense headaches that last over 24 hours are a sign of another medical condition, so make sure to contact your doctor if the aforementioned symptoms occur.