Let’s add spinal headaches to the list of reasons I am so glad I didn’t get the epidural. One of my favorite shows to watch is Bringing Home Baby on TLC. The other morning there were back to back episodes that featured women who both ended up with a spinal headache for the first week or so after giving birth. I cringed as these new moms confined themselves to bed in agony. They relied on their husbands to do most of the baby care, struggling to sit up when they needed to breastfeed, and one mom even resorted to using a bed pan because standing up was so painful. The headaches were debilitating and there was nothing they could do but wait it out. I told my neighbor about the show and what do you know… she had one, too!
Spinal headaches are also known as post-lumbar puncture headaches. About 1 in 200 women who receive an epidural end up with a spinal headache. When you receive an epidural, pain medication is injected into the spinal canal. If the epidural needle accidentally passes through the covering of the spinal cord, called the dura, a spinal headache can result if spinal fluid leaks through the puncture site. The fluid leak, if significant enough, results in a change of fluid pressure around the brain. The headaches are severe, though they improve when the person is lying down. Strict bed rest and drinking lots of fluids are recommended for relieving spinal headaches. Some patients respond well to caffeine. In addition, over the counter pain relievers may be used under the supervision of a doctor, especially if you are nursing. Most headaches go away on their own in two to four days. If the headache persists, there is a procedure called an epidural blood patch that eliminates the headache 90% of the time. A small amount of blood is taken from your arm and injected into the epidural space to clot and plug the leak. The procedure may give you a mild to moderate backache, but it is fairly effective in relieving a spinal headache.
Have you ever had a spinal headache? What was it like? Did you receive treatment or did you wait it out? Would you get an epidural the next time around if you experienced this complication?