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Managing Migraine After Having a Baby and While Breastfeeding

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: May 2022 | Last updated: May 2022

Having a baby can change your migraine symptoms in unexpected ways. Pregnancy may mean relief from the condition. But symptoms may come back after delivery. One study found that nearly 27 percent of women had a headache attack within 3 days of delivery.1

When you give birth, estrogen levels suddenly drop, setting off migraine. Estrogen is a hormone your body makes. It plays a role in reproduction. Other factors can also lead to the return of migraine after delivery, including changes to:2,3

  • Serotonin levels
  • Oxytocin levels
  • Stress
  • Sleeping and eating patterns

If you plan to breastfeed after delivery, you will need to consider which type of migraine medicine you take. Some can cause side effects for your baby.

Developing a postpartum migraine treatment plan

You and your doctor will work together to manage migraine symptoms after you give birth. A treatment plan will likely include a combination of medicine and lifestyle changes.3

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Nondrug migraine treatment options

Here is a look at some nonmedicine options and alternative treatments to help ease migraine symptoms:2,4,5

  • Sleep: Quality sleep, especially in the early weeks after delivery, is crucial in controlling migraines. And it is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. Try your best to sleep when your baby sleeps.
  • Nutrition: A healthy diet will also help to manage migraine. Avoid alcohol and be sure to drink 8 glasses of water a day.
  • Breastfeeding: There is evidence that breastfeeding can ease migraine, but more research is needed. The good news is, breastfeeding does not seem to make migraine worse.
  • Ice: Try wrapping an ice pack with a towel. Or, simply use a cold cloth and place it on your head.
  • Relaxation exercises: Use relaxation exercises like deep breathing and meditation for stress relief.
  • Biofeedback: This is another technique to reduce stress where you manage your body’s functions, like your heart rate.
  • Acupuncture: To ease migraine, a practitioner inserts thin needles into different pressure points on your skin.

Prescription and over-the-counter migraine treatment options

Several prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) options are available to treat migraine. Which one you take depends on:6

  • How often you get headaches
  • How they impact your life
  • Whether you have any other health conditions

Your doctor may suggest you take:6

  • Pain relievers: OTC pain medicines include ibuprofen (Advil®, Aleve®, Motrin® IB) and aspirin.
  • Triptans: This class of drugs blocks pain signals in the brain. Triptans come in the form of pills, injections, and nasal sprays.

You could have persistent migraine that does not get better with treatment. If so, you may take a medicine that prevents headaches before they start, such as:6

  • Blood pressure medicine. Medicines that lower your blood pressure, like beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers, could also relieve migraine.
  • Antidepressants. To prevent migraine, some people also take a tricyclic antidepressant. If you are concerned about side effects, ask your doctor about an alternative antidepressant.

Breastfeeding while taking migraine drugs

If you are taking medicine for a health condition, it is possible to pass it to your baby through your breast milk. You may wonder if it is safe to take migraine drugs while breastfeeding. The answer is: it depends on the drug.

Research shows ibuprofen appears in low levels in breast milk and is likely safe to take while breastfeeding. It may be best to avoid aspirin, some beta-blockers, and antiseizure medicines until you have stopped breastfeeding. That is because they may have side effects. Scientific research is unclear about the impact of triptans and tricyclic antidepressants on nursing babies. Talk to your doctor about which migraine medicine is right for you after giving birth.7