What happens to hormone levels after giving birth and during breastfeeding, and how does that affect migraine?
During postpartum, hormone levels plummet, which can cause migraine attacks to flare up, although breastfeeding can delay them.
“As soon as the woman delivers her baby, the estrogen and progesterone levels plummet. Not such a good thing. So unfortunately for many women their migraines are going to flare back up during postpartum. And then you have issues of breastfeeding. But the good news is we have many more options during breastfeeding. For example, most OBs do not want women taking anti-inflammatories during pregnancy, you know like Motrin, ibuprofen. Most OB’s are not in big favor of the triptans during pregnancy. But the nice thing is that once the woman starts breastfeeding, it really opens up the door to a lot more treatment. Another comment is studies have shown if a woman chooses to breastfeed, it often delays the return of migraines. So I think breastfeeding is such a good thing anyway, and so for many women they continue to get a reprieve from their migraines until they start tapering down, or stopping breastfeeding.
“And then that's usually a natural point you can talk to them about, well maybe we need to do some low-dose contraception. So again, taking that woman who probably needs an effective means of birth control and putting her on a low-dose birth control can be a great option.”
Both estrogen and progesterone levels plummet as soon as a woman gives birth, which can cause a flare-up in migraine attacks. If a woman is breastfeeding and getting migraine attacks, there are safe options she can take to manage them. Even better, some studies have shown that migraine attacks are often delayed in women who choose to breastfeed.
Susan Hutchinson, MD
Author - The Women's Guide to Managing Migraine
Orange County Migraine & Headache Center
Dr. Susan Hutchinson is a headache specialist and board-certified family practice physician. In February 2007, she founded Orange County Migraine & Headache Center, dedicated to serving patients with headache and mood disorders. Although she is not a psychiatrist, she has developed a special interest in treating mood disorders as well as headache. The mood disorders she treats include depression; anxiety; bipolar disorder; ADHD; and panic attacks. Dr. Hutchinson suffers from migraine headaches which gives her an empathy with her patients.
She felt such a calling to help patients with headache and mood disorders that she decided to specialize and devote her career to alleviating the suffering caused by both headaches and mood disorders. She lectures nationally on the subject of headache; has written dozens of articles for medical journals; participated in headache research projects and is very active in numerous professional organizations such as the American Headache Society and the National Headache Foundation.
She is the immediate post-chair of the Women’s Issues section of the American Headache Society after serving in the chair position for 5 years. Dr. Hutchinson is a dynamic and sought-after speaker. She speaks for community groups as well as professional groups. In 2010 she became the President of The Orange County Chapter of the California Academy of Family Physicians.