You might have heard about different postpartum symptoms and everything that follows after giving birth to a baby. But the one thing that’s not as often discussed is postpartum headaches. If you are experiencing headaches after pregnancy, you are not alone. Postpartum headaches are more common than you think. So it’s high time that we discuss postpartum headaches and why you might be getting them.
Postpartum Headaches: The Two Types
You can be diagnosed with a postpartum headache if you experience headaches in the first six weeks after delivering your baby. Around 39% of women are diagnosed with it within the first week of giving birth (1).
Postpartum headaches are of two types based on their severity:
- Primary headaches (tension headaches and migraines)
- Secondary headaches (due to an underlying condition)
What Causes Postpartum Headaches?
If you are experiencing postpartum headaches, being aware of the different causes can help you understand why they might be occurring.
Primary headaches can occur due to several reasons such as not getting enough sleep, stress, being dehydrated, hormonal fluctuations, previously diagnosed with migraines or a family history of one, shifting hormone levels leading to postpartum weight loss, and other environmental factors (2).
Postpartum is a period where women survive on little sleep and food. And it’s a no-brainer that women deal with a lot of stress during this period taking care of the baby. But could these factors be contributing to your headache? If so, it is important to continue to live a healthy lifestyle not just during but after your pregnancy as well. Now that you know what causes primary headaches, let’s learn about the factors that cause secondary headaches in postpartum women.
Secondary headaches can be caused due to the following reasons:
- If you have taken a regional anesthesia
- Some medications
- Caffeine withdrawal
- Cortical vein thrombosis
Breastfeeding And Headaches?
Some women experience postpartum headaches while they are breastfeeding. Though there’s no direct link between the two, here’s why you might be having them (3):
- Breastfeeding can cause hormonal fluctuations leading to a headache
- Being dehydrated and sleep-deprived can cause migraine or tension headaches
- Breastfeeding can be physically and emotionally challenging for you resulting in a headache
What You Need To Know
Since there are two types of postpartum headaches, the type of headache you have can fall into any one category. Migraine headaches are common among women during their postpartum period. Among secondary headaches, the common factors causing them are regional anesthesia and preeclampsia (4). Hence it’s important to note down the symptoms associated with your headache.
Keep a note of everything including vision changes, shortness of breath, throbbing in one or both sides of the head, neck stiffness, nausea, vomiting or anything else that you may experience.
Consult your doctor right away if you have any of the following symptoms (5):
- If your headaches are severe
- If it intensifies over time
- If it changes over time and shifts to a different location
- If it occurs after a workout
- If it wakes you up from your sleep
- If it is accompanied by fever, nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness, changes in vision, cognitive problems
Things You Can Do To Prevent Primary Headaches During Postpartum
Since secondary headaches are caused by a medical condition, there isn’t much you can do about it. However, if you are experiencing primary headaches, following the tips mentioned below can help prevent their occurrence:
Make sure you drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated all day.
Eat Healthy Food
Eat smaller meals throughout the day. Make sure not to skip your breakfast at any cost.
Do Meditation Or Yoga
Reduce your stress levels doing meditation or yoga. Take a short walk or read a book if it can help you feel calm.
Get Enough Sleep
If not long hours, take short naps whenever you can. Ask your partner or family to watch over your baby if you need some rest.
Most cases of postpartum headaches go away if you take care of yourself during the postpartum period. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, don’t delay in consulting your doctor. Also, if you have frequent or severe headaches while breastfeeding, it’s best to talk to your doctor about it.