Migraine While Breastfeeding: Causes, Treatments, and More
Migraine affects millions of people in the United States. Although the condition can sometimes improve during pregnancy, it can get worse during the postpartum period and sometimes during breastfeeding.
According to the American Migraine Foundation, migraine is a debilitating disease that affects approximately 39 million people in the United States. Chronic migraine, when a person has more than 15 migraine days per month, affects up to 1 in 20 people.
A migraine can be moderate or severe. A person with migraine may experience:
In this article, we take a look at the connection between migraines and breastfeeding. We’re also looking at migraine medications that can be safely taken while breastfeeding and migraine prevention tips.
There is not enough clear evidence to say whether breastfeeding can improve or worsen migraines.
According to a 2013 article in
Primary headaches, which include migraines, tension headaches, and cluster headaches, are
While migraine may improve during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, many people often experience migraine episodes onset in the first days and weeks after birth.
Among women who have suffered from migraines in the past, the American Migraine Foundation states that:
- 1 in 4 people will suffer from migraine within 2 weeks of birth
- almost 50% will experience a migraine episode in the first month
In addition, 5% of women who have never had a migraine may have their first migraine after childbirth. This may be due to fluctuating hormones in the days after birth.
While the American Migraine Foundation does not mention breastfeeding as a factor in making or making migraine worse, it does note many factors contributing to migraine that new parents are likely to recognize, such as:
Breastfeeding can be exhausting for the first few days and weeks, and nighttime feedings can interfere with sleep. Many people can forget to feed and hydrate themselves while feeding their infants. All of these environmental factors around breastfeeding could contribute to migraines.
There are several medications that can be taken without risk for migraines while breastfeeding. These include:
There are mixed messages as to whether other medications, such as antidepressants, beta blockers, and anticonvulsants, can be used safely while breastfeeding. A doctor can provide advice on the risks and benefits of these medicines while breastfeeding.
Factors that a healthcare professional will consider when prescribing medications may include:
- the benefits for the infant and the breastfeeding person
- the risks of exposure to the drug to the baby or to breast milk production
- when a person should take the medicine and for how long to take it
People who wish to take prescription drugs that are not currently approved for pregnancy or breastfeeding should speak with a healthcare practitioner about the options available.
Medicines that are not safe to take while breastfeeding may include:
People should consult a doctor before taking aspirin for migraines while breastfeeding. It may be reasonable for people with certain conditions to take low-dose aspirin while monitoring the baby for any side effects. However, aspirin can cause the development of salicylic acid in breast milk. This is dangerous for a baby and can lead to metabolic acidosis with fatal consequences.
People should not take opiates, such as codeine and tramadol, for migraine pain while breastfeeding. the
Other causes of postpartum headaches can include:
Headaches can be common in the postpartum period and can sometimes occur as a direct result of factors during childbirth. For example, epidural or spinal procedures for pain relief can cause headaches hours or days after birth under certain circumstances.
Postpartum preeclampsia can also cause headaches in the first few weeks after birth. A person should see an emergency doctor as soon as possible if they have symptoms such as:
The first few days and weeks after giving birth can be stressful. Lack of sleep, difficulty maintaining adequate nutrition and hydration, and anxiety about their newborn baby can cause tension headaches. Trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle and sleep pattern can help relieve symptoms over time.
The following self-help tips can help prevent or slow the frequency of migraines:
- keeping a headache diary to identify triggers such as disturbed sleep, stress, dehydration, or missed meals
- take all medications prescribed by a doctor on time each day
- cut back on caffeine
- trying to exercise regularly and maintain a moderate weight
- use relaxation techniques to relax
A person considering herbal remedies to treat their migraines should see a healthcare practitioner first. Aside from the fact that there is little evidence that herbal remedies can help relieve migraines, some can be harmful to a baby if they pass into breast milk.
A person should talk to a healthcare professional if they experience:
- a new headache after childbirth
- worsening of migraine symptoms
- severe migraine symptoms
A person should seek emergency help if they experience:
- an unusually severe headache
- difficulty speaking
- sight problems
- uncontrollable vomiting
- paralysis or weakness in the arms or face
- a headache with fever, stiff neck, confusion, seizures, vision problems or rash
Although migraines can get worse after childbirth, there is little evidence to suggest that breastfeeding is the cause. However, factors associated with breastfeeding, including disturbed sleep and poor hydration, may be contributing factors.
Breastfeeding parents may wish to use over-the-counter medications to treat migraine symptoms or speak to a healthcare professional about prescription medications that can be safely taken while breastfeeding.