The Guide to Postpartum Headaches + How to Help

Does your head hurt—and not just from your baby's near-constant crying? You may need more help than just 'sleeping when the baby sleeps.'
Experiencing postpartum headaches is very common—but not talked about often enough. Here, helpful tips from experts.

The laundry list of life adjustments you have to make as a new mom is long enough, let alone the amount of physical ailments that continue to linger long after your 6 weeks are up.  

There’s bleeding, night sweats, hormonal changes, navigating changes in your relationships with your partner, family and friends to the point where it may feel like everything in your life has gone topsy-turvy. 

One thing you may not have considered, however, is that the headaches you’re experiencing postpartum may be related to having given birth. If you’re experiencing postpartum headaches, you might have some questions: Why do they happen? Are they anything about which you should worry? What can you do to alleviate the pain?

We spoke with experts to get their insider information on these questions and more to help you better understand this particular postpartum experience and feel ready to tackle them if they happen to you.

Here’s your guide to postpartum headaches—everything you need to know about this form of postpartum pain and how they affect your overall postpartum health. In this guide, we’ll cover everything from what postpartum headaches are to why they happen as well as how to fix them.

  • What are postpartum headaches?
  • Why do postpartum headaches happen?
  • How common are postpartum headaches?
  • When to seek medical attention
  • At-home remedies for postpartum headaches

What are postpartum headaches?

Postpartum headaches, also known as postnatal headaches, truly just refer to a headache that follows after giving birth—in the weeks or months postpartum. If you have a headache and have given birth relatively recently, it qualifies as a postpartum headache.

Why do postpartum headaches happen?

You can get a headache for any number of reasons, and postpartum headaches are no different. Your postpartum headaches may or may not have anything to do with actually giving birth. They could be because you’re going through a period of major transition (and that can lead to stress and overwhelm, which can in turn affect your daily routines) or they may be caused by all of the physical changes that happen during birth.

“They happen because of hormone changes, lack of sleep, and water loss. They could also be a sign of postpartum blood pressure issues,” Monte Swarup, MD, FACOG, a board-certified OB/GYN from Chandler, Arizona, and the founder of HPV Hub, said.

Additionally, your postpartum headaches might be caused by too little food, high blood pressure, receiving an epidural, a blood clot, and more, according to WebMD.

Postpartum health, like your health in general, is all interconnected, so if you’re not getting what you need to keep your health in tip-top shape, it may cause other negative health effects as well.

How common are postpartum headaches?

Approximately 50 percent of women experience postpartum headaches and they’re especially common in the immediate postpartum period, said Lauren Demosthenes, MD, the senior medical director at Babyscripts. So if you find yourself experiencing a headache during the postpartum period, you’re far from alone.

When to seek medical attention for postpartum headaches

Though most headaches don’t require medical attention, there are some symptoms you don’t want to overlook. If you experience these more serious symptoms, speak to your OB provider and other health care professionals for more guidance.

“A severe headache that is relieved only with lying flat may be the result of a ‘wet tap,’ which is when there is a small leakage of spinal fluid when an epidural is inadvertently placed just a bit too deeply,” explains Demosthenes This is quite uncommon and can be managed by the anesthesia experts. A severe headache may also be a signal for postpartum preeclampsia, so your blood pressure should be monitored postpartum at home if you’re high risk and especially with a severe headache that is not relieved by Tylenol or Advil, she notes. “Be sure to ask if you are high-risk when you are discharged from your birth setting,” Demosthenes says. “With a severe headache, it is important to discuss this with your health care team.”

When in doubt, seek care for your postpartum pain. As busy as you might be as a new mom. it’s not worth jeopardizing your health if you suspect something serious may be going on.

At-home remedies for postpartum headaches

For the most part, your postpartum headaches can be managed at home with over-the-counter or alternative remedies. Here are a few things you can do if you’re experiencing postpartum headaches, according to Swarup:

  • Get more sleep
  • Drink more water
  • Use compresses or ice
  • Reduce your caffeine intake
  • Take a pain reliever, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen

Demosthenes also recommended:

  • Make sure you eat a healthy diet
  • Take a warm bath
  • Get a massage
  • Up your fluid intake (some Gatorade is okay!)

Ultimately, a lot of the things that you would do at home for other headaches are the kinds of things that can help treat or prevent postpartum headaches as well, as long as they aren’t too severe. Remember, as Swarup advised, if you experience vision loss or vomiting or you have an elevated blood pressure, you should seek professional medical care, as those kinds of symptoms could indicate a larger issue.

Taking care of your postpartum health is super important for not only your overall wellness and recovery, but also for your family’s time of transition. There are a lot of changes that come along with the postpartum period, and addressing any postpartum pain or other worrisome symptoms sooner rather than later may help that period go a bit more smoothly.

Find more stories that speak to you, resources to help guide you, and a community of mothers showing up for mothers at The Mother Chapter.


  • Lauren Schumacker

    Lauren Schumaker fell in love with food at a young age. After attending culinary school in Chicago, she moved to Athens, GA to earn her master's in journalism at the University of Georgia. While in Athens, she took over the food-focused Locavore column in Flagpole magazine. She was also an editorial intern at Sauce Magazine in St. Louis, where she continued to freelance. Lauren worked as a lifestyle writer and editor for years, with bylines appearing in places like Romper, INSIDER, Tales of the Cocktail and The Everygirl. When she's not working, you can find her in the kitchen cooking, spending time with her dog, Brody, or working on her endless TBR list.

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