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Postpartum Headache and Migraine

Migraine after childbirth is common; millions of women experience migraine attacks each year. Nearly one in four will experience migraine or headaches in the first few weeks after delivery [1].

Almost half of women will have a migraine in the first month. Even women who have never experienced a painful migraine may get their first one after giving birth [2].

Symptoms may include postpartum head pain, nausea, depression, aura, fatigue, muscle stiffness, neck pain, and sensitivity to light and sound [3]. If you experience these symptoms, check with your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

How Long Do Postpartum Migraine Attacks Last?

Migraine attacks vary widely between individuals. Some experience only brief symptoms and headache pain, while the symptoms are far more severe and longer-lasting for others.

 What Causes Postpartum Migraine, Exactly?

Changes in hormone levels are a common trigger for postpartum migraine attacks. The sudden drop in estrogen after birth, along with increases in oxytocin and prolactin, may cause headache and migraine symptoms to appear [4]. Other causes may be related to lack of sleep, iron deficiency, stress, poor eating, and dehydration that frequently accompany having a baby [5].

Dehydration can result from sweating during labor or breastfeeding and may contribute to headache symptoms. New mothers should stay hydrated and take good care of their health [6].  

Spinal headaches after C-section may also affect some women. During a C-section, doctors administer spinal epidural or spinal block anesthesia to the mother before surgery [7]. Some women report they experience headaches after the operation. For some women, anesthesia may induce headache, nausea, low blood pressure, or back pain after the procedure. Headaches or migraine after C-section should stop with time, rest, and plenty of water. 

If you experienced migraine before you were pregnant, then attacks might return postpartum. Hormone levels rise during pregnancy, which, for some people, eases migraine until childbirth. After birth, estrogen levels drop, and for some women, that may retrigger migraine headaches after delivery.

How To Treat Severe Postpartum Headaches and Migraine

Headaches and migraine after pregnancy are common. Treatment, however, becomes  more complicated for pregnant women and nursing mothers [6]. 

Since some medications can pass into the bloodstream and breast milk, moms are often concerned about which ones are safe for their new baby. Women should always talk with their doctors before trying a new medication or painkiller. Some drugs are safe, while some are not approved for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. 

There is a safe, drug-free option, cleared for the acute and/or preventive treatment of migraine, called Nerivio.  It can help women gain control over their migraine and migraine symptoms after labor. 

New moms have enough to worry about and do not need more concerns. This prescription-use medical device has led to the reduction of headache pain, leading to both pain relief and pain freedom. Clinical trials demonstrate that Nerivio provides consistent relief of pain and associated migraine symptoms, as well as a significant reduction in monthly migraine days. Ask your doctor if Nerivio is right for you. 

Other treatments include relaxation techniques, such as yoga or deep breathing exercises. Relaxing in a dark room may help reduce sensitivity to light and noise. Eating plenty of healthy foods and staying hydrated may also help reduce or prevent migraine attacks [8]. Tracking the migraine phases with a journal (migraine diary) may help your doctor develop an effective treatment plan to minimize migraine symptoms. A convenient way to keep a migraine diary is using a phone app. With the Nerivio app you can keep a complete migraine diary, gain insight into your migraine patterns, and share data with your physician or caregiver.  

When Should I Worry About Postpartum Headaches?

Pregnancy can sometimes lead to postpartum hypertension, a high-blood pressure condition [10]. Postpartum hypertension may include preeclampsia, gestational hypertension, or chronic hypertension with superimposed preeclampsia. According to recent studies, it affects up to 15% of new moms [11].

It is necessary to get regular physical examinations after childbirth. Healthcare professionals will check your blood pressure to ensure you remain at healthy levels. If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may request a urine sample to check protein levels and rule out hypertension. 

In most cases, hypertension is probably not serious, but your doctor will be able to diagnose anything that needs attention. Stay in touch with your doctor and report any unusual headaches or symptoms.


  1. Medical News Today (2021, October 28). Migraine headaches while breastfeeding: Causes https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/migraine-while-breastfeeding-causes#breastfeeding-and-migraine
  2. American Migraine Foundation. (2018, January 25). New Moms With Migraine: Understanding Postpartum Headache https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/postpartum-headache/
  3. WebMD. (2023, April 23) What to Know About Postpartum Headaches https://www.webmd.com/baby/what-to-know-about-postpartum-headaches
  4. The Journal of Headache and Pain. (2023, 27 March). Prolactin and oxytocin: potential targets for migraine treatment https://thejournalofheadacheandpain.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s10194-023-01557-6
  5. National Library of Medicine. (2019, Jul 1). Is There Any Correlation between Migraine Attacks and Iron Deficiency Anemia? A Case-Control Study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6801325/
  6. Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Breastfeeding nutrition: Tips for moms https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/breastfeeding-nutrition/art-20046912
  7. National Library of Medicine. (2017, Apr). Postdural puncture headache https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5370299/
  8. Cleveland Clinic. (2021, Dec). Dehydration Headache https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21517-dehydration-headache
  9. National Library of Medicine. (2021 Mar 6). Stroke mimics: incidence, aetiology, clinical features and treatment. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7939567/
  10. National Library of Medicine. (2017 Jul 10). Postpartum hypertension. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5505758/
  11. National Library of Medicine. (2004 Dec). Management of hypertension before, during, and after pregnancy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1768605/

Safety Information

It is highly recommended that you consult your doctor before taking any action based on the information above. This content does not constitute medical advice or a recommendation.

Nerivio is an FDA-cleared, drug-free therapy for acute and preventive treatment of migraine with or without aura in patients 12 years and up. It is a prescription use, a self-administered device for use in the home environment at the onset of migraine headache or aura for acute treatment, or every other day for preventive treatment.

Nerivio should not be used by people with uncontrolled epilepsy, an active implantable medical device, such as a pacemaker, hearing aid implant, or any implanted electronic device. Such use could cause electric shock, electrical interference or serious injuries or medical conditions.”

For full user instructions and safety information, please see the Nerivio User Manual.
Talk to your doctor to see if Nerivio is right for you.