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Thread: Headaches from breastfeeding?

  1. #1

    Default Headaches from breastfeeding?

    My baby is 17 days old. She was eventually delivered by c-section when I developed high blood pressure and headaches two weeks before her due date. One week before her due date, my doctor admitted me to try and get the blood pressure under control using Magnesium. Once my blood pressure was okay we decided to try inducing labor and attempt a vaginal birth. After ten hours of unproductive labor, and my blood pressure spiking again, the decision was made to do the c-section. I had an epidural and my daughter was born a week early. My blood pressure continued to flucuate and so I was kept on magnesium an additional day at which time I was switched to an oral blood pressure medication, Procardia, and sent home two days later.

    My headaches had stopped by the time I left the hospital and our nursing was going very well, with my mother's coaching. Three days later I developed severe headaches and my blood pressure shot up again and we were admitted back into the hospital. I was able to keep my daughter in the room with me, so there was no break in the nursing. My milk came in while in the hospital.

    Following a series of tests, including EKG's and a CT scan, and after getting my blood pressure back under control, my headaches were still unbearable. Three doctors saw me. My OB/GYN, the Anestheiseologist and a Neurologist. They all concluded that my headaches did not appear to be epidural induced and that a blood patch would not help. i was discharged with instructions to see my PCP.

    Although the headaches have gotten less frequent, when they hit they are really bad. I have at least one and usually two or more a day. Since I am breast feeding, my PCP is reluctant to treat them with anything more than tylenol and has referred me to another neurologist to determine if they are migraines. Two additional complications are that I am post gastric bypass by three years and cannot take slow release medications. I am also a recovering alchoholic, (23 months, 7 days sober!), which limits the pain medications that I can use.

    Now to my question; Can my headaches be nursing induced? I am drinking water and fluids all day long and feel I am well hydrated, but I am also nursing all day long. Has anyone ever had headaches as a "side effect" of nursing? And what did you do about it?

    Thank you for any help you may be able to give me.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2006

    Default Re: Headaches from breastfeeding?

    It's possible they are related to hormonal changes. I had hot flashes after my first baby was born. The few times I have had a cycle in the last 7 years, I have severe headaches/migraines, and those are definitely related to hormones.

    I have found that, for me, nursing stabilizes hormones for some time, and the hot flashes went away after a few weeks to months. Of you can ride it out, it may improve with time.

    I imagine they don't want to give you narcotics with your history. But there are plenty of pain relievers that are compatible with breastfeeding. If a doctor suggests one to you but says you have to wean, you can call Infant Risk for its actual risk in breastfeeding, as most doctors are not 100% up to date on what is compatible and what isn't.
    Mama to my all-natural boys: Ian, 9-4-04, 11.5 lbs; Colton, 11-7-06, 9 lbs, in the water; Logan, 12-8-08, 9 lbs; Gavin, 1-18-11, 9 lbs; and an angel 1-15-06
    18+ months and for Gavin, born with an incomplete cleft lip and incomplete posterior cleft palate
    Sealed for time and eternity, 7-7-93
    Always babywearing, cosleeping and cloth diapering. Living with oppositional defiant disorder and ADHD. Ask me about cloth diapering and sewing your own diapers!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2009

    Default Re: Headaches from breastfeeding?

    According to the lactation textbook Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple (Mohrbacher, 2010) Some headaches, such as migraines, seem to be affected by a woman’s hormonal fluctuations. But usually, this means breastfeeding protects mothers who are prone to such headaches from migraine occurrence.

    However, in rare cases, rather than preventing headaches, the hormonal changes of breastfeeding seem to trigger headaches. One study described that a minute number (4 out of 4500) of breastfeeding help calls logged involved mothers whose migraines were worse during breastfeeding. But only one of these 4 found relief by weaning, another only got the headaches WHEN weaning because her breasts were thus overfull, and this (breast fullness causing headaches) was also reported in another study.

    Another study characterized the isolated reports of breastfeeding related headaches this way: one type occurred during first milk ejection. A second type occurred when mothers experienced full breasts.

    How are you sleeping? Personally I get headaches from not enough sleep. of course, not enough sleep is pretty much par for the course at this point but try to get as much rest as you can.

    Some breast fullness would be typical at this point, but maybe if you can keep your breasts as soft as possible that would help? Are you nursing very frequently (a minimum of 12 times in 24 hours?) and letting baby finish one breast before offering the other? Some moms inadvertently give themselves oversupply by following the commonly given but incorrect advice that suggests it is necessary to always nurse baby at both sides for a set amount of time at each feeding, or create a more intense letdown or overfulness by scheduling feedings rather than nursing on cue-and nursing cues can come from baby OR mom. Whenever I felt myself getting full, I offered to nurse.

    As far as meds, most medications are safe to take when nursing and certainly far safer than the health risks to both mom and baby of weaning. I understand your personal concern about taking certain types of meds, but if there are other remedies you would feel comfortable taking, you can check out their safety when nursing by calling the folks at www.infantrisk.com (We are now open to answer calls Monday-Friday 8am-5pm central time. Please contact us at (806)-352-2519)
    or a LLL Leader who has the book Medications and Mothers Milk, which is a medical text book that rates the safety of medications for breastfeeding mothers. The idea a mom who is breastfeeding can only take tylenol is ludicrous. For example, a mom who has had a c-section is routinely prescribed prescription strength Motrin, Tylenol with codeine, and a narcotic pain medication with no cautions about not breastfeeding.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2006

    Default Re: Headaches from breastfeeding?

    Are they absolutely, 1000% sure that the headaches do not stem from the epidural? I have an acquaintance who was told over and over and over again that her severe postpartum headaches could not possible stem from her epidural, that they were psychological, that she just needed more exercise, that it was exhaustion from nursing, etc. It wasn't until she got a blood patch to fix her 6 month old epidural-induced CSF leak that the headaches finally went away. I believe she ultimately needed an MRI to diagnose the CSF leak.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Northern Cal.

    Default Re: Headaches from breastfeeding?

    I am a lifelong headache sufferer, and hormonal changes tend to make mine worse (but not nursing for whatever reason), so I sympathize. But I'd be more worried about your recent history with the epidural and the blood pressure issues. I hope that whatever this is resolves one way or the other soon! I wouldn't be to quick to blame breastfeeding when you have several possible culprits. Even if it is hormonal changes related to postpartum and breastfeeding, the headaches will likely adjust as you settle into things and your body gets used to breastfeeding. Weaning has its own hormonal cocktail, so it makes sense to me that weaning did not help women who had migraines associated with breastfeeding. I hope you feel better soon!!

    You can call me JoMo!

    Mom to baby boy Joe, born 5/4/09 and breastfed for more than two and a half years, and baby girl Maggie, born 7/9/12.

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