After you’ve delivered your baby, you may think that the rough part is over and that your body will return to normal over the next few months. In most cases, this will be true. But the fluctuation of hormones after you give birth can trigger post-pregnancy headaches. You may also experience post-pregnancy headaches if you chose to receive an epidural during delivery.
Post Dural Puncture Headache
When you are given an epidural during delivery, an anesthesiologist inserts a needle into your back, then threads a catheter into the area between the bony part of the spine and the dura, a membrane that encases the spinal cord. Medication flows through the catheter to keep you from feeling pain during labor. Your anesthesiologist may accidentally puncture the dura, leading to leakage of cerebrospinal fluid, according to Dr. William Reid Camann. Losing cerebrospinal fluid can lead to post-pregnancy headaches after delivery. Fortunately, a post-dural puncture headache is rare.
Hormones and Headaches
If you suffered from migraines before you were pregnant, you may have noticed that they abated on their own during your pregnancy, only to return with a vengeance after delivery. An increase in levels of estrogen may help keep migraines away during pregnancy. As the levels of estrogen return to normal after birth, your migraines are likely to return. In some cases, a drop in estrogen combined with coping with a new baby, not eating right and not getting enough sleep, will make your headaches worse, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Breastfeeding and Headaches
Breastfeeding a baby may keep headaches away for some women, yet others may experience what is known as a lactation headache. If you get headaches while breastfeeding, oxytocin, the hormone released when your body lets the milk down, could be the trigger. You may also experience post-pregnancy headaches if your breasts become too full with milk, which usually will be relieved by feeding your baby.
Coping With Headaches
When you feel a headache coming on, or when you’re in the midst of one, try to relax. Ask your partner to massage your shoulders or neck. Some pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, are safe to take if you’re breastfeeding, so talk to your doctor about pain relievers for your headaches.
Cause for Concern
Preeclampsia, or high blood pressure, is a concern even after you’ve given birth. If you get a terrible headache within three days of giving birth, see your doctor immediately, as it could be preeclampsia. A headache is the most common sign of postpartum preeclampsia, which requires medication to lower your blood pressure, according to Dr. Mark C. Chames in “OB/GYN News.”
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