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My Spinal Headache Story: Risk Realized in Repeat C-Section

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Headache related image via Kaspars Grinvalds, Fotolia

I promised myself when I suffered a spinal headache and the eventual cure of it, I would someday write about my experience.

When delivering babies via C-Section, an epidural or spinal block must be administered to ensure a pain-free delivery. There are risks, but in my opinion, it works. I gave birth to two babies, one after receiving an epidural and another after spinal block.

The trouble I had was in the spinal block. The second baby was a planned c-section. It was easy in that I hopped up on the surgical table, assumed the balled-up position, and the anesthesiologist administered the drugs to numb my lower extremities and abdomen. In passing the needle through my short spinal cavity, the membrane holding precious spinal fluid was nicked.

I didn’t know until after the procedure when I experienced the most intense migraine I have ever had in my life. And I’ve had migraines. I get migraines with nausea if I don’t eat regularly, and sometimes with my period or when under a lot of stress. But this headache was unlike any I had ever experienced.

The migraine turned into an almost audible thudding in my ears when I stood up to shuffle ten paces to the restroom. Anyone who’s delivered a baby knows that first walk to the restroom after delivering is no picnic to begin with. My symptoms worsened as the day progressed. I had nausea and I was dizzy lying down, which also was worse when I stood up.

I distinctly remember listening to the University of Kansas Final Four tournament game and praying I could just fall asleep so I could turn the pain in my head off. No medication helped my condition. By the end of the second day in the hospital, the nurses started to talk of something called a Spinal Headache. Here’s more info, in case you’ve never heard of it:


The morning of the third day, the nurse asked the anesthesiologist to visit me and determine if they thought I had a spinal headache. She took a calculated look at me and listened to my symptoms and determined that was what was going on. She insisted the spinal block was clean and that she hadn’t punctured the fluid-protecting membrane, but my symptoms pointed overwhelming to the contrary.

Now the fun part: how to get rid of the spinal headache. The anesthesiologist explained that taking increased amounts of caffeine could help relieve it, or she could administer a blood patch. Well the second one didn’t sound fun, but cure-by-Starbucks did! So I thought of calling my husband, who had left to take our other son home to give me some relief, and asking him bring me a venti Café Mocha to get things rolling. I was told that remedy could take up to 48 hours to take effect, but the blood patch could probably take effect in 10 minutes following the procedure. Hmmmm…

So I opted for the blood patch. I felt myself sinking into my phobia of needles and things poking into my back, and sought some light conversation. “So how about those Chicago Cubs,” I asked as I once again assumed that balled-up position for the procedure. Thankfully, one of the nurses launched into a story about how lucky I am to have boys, and how she was called by the police that past Saturday night telling her that her lovely son had been arrested for strapping a car seat with a baby doll to the roof of their car and driving around their local Wal-Mart parking lot.

Everyone in the room laughed, and another nurse started her own “son horror story,” followed by another story from someone else in the room. The levity helped, as the skilled anesthesiologist inserted the multiple vials of blood drawn from my arm into my spine. The whole procedure took less than 10 minutes, and as the clean-up was taking place, I opened my eyes wide and exhaled in huge relief—it was working! I already felt 100 percent better. It was amazing. And the love I felt from the ladies who helped me through it was a true inspiration. I honestly bonded with these women in that moment, and truly felt cared for.

Christine Jeffries is a writer/editor for work and at heart, and lives in a home of testosterone with her husband and two sons. She founded a women’s group, The Wo-Hoo! Society, in the interests of good friends, networking, and philanthropy; the group meets separately on a monthly basis in Phoenix and Kansas City. Christine is interested in women’s health and promoting strong women.

Add a Comment16 Comments

EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to dr a k garg)

Is It possible to have a spinal headache a week after c section? For 4 days I was in the hospital i'm having endone and they're giving me nurofen plus paracetamol in between. So as soon as i get home I started to cut down my endone. I feel the terrible headache a day before 1 week post c section.

August 20, 2015 - 4:28am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to dr a k garg)

Is It possibke

August 20, 2015 - 4:23am
EmpowHER Guest

i am going on 7 days with a spinal headache. it started after a routine lumbar epidural injection that i recieve monthly with breaks every 3 months. i literally cannot sit or stand upright. i have been confined to laying flat on my back and gorging myself with mountain dew for caffeine! my doctor insisted that he did not puncture that membrane but my symptoms prove differently. this is the absolute worst pain i have ever experienced. in the past 6 days i have gotten out of bed maybe 4 times for the restroom. it shouldnthave to be so difficult to get a doctor (the dr. who did this to me in the first place) to listen and take action sooner than 7 days later. my husband has called almost every day to explain my symptoms are worsening. finally this morning the dr.'s nurse scheduled me for a blood patch tomorrow. i have my fingers crossed that it will work. i havee been terrified of what this could be doing to my body and the pain is worse than anything i could have ever imagined! i pray that i will be healed tomorrow.

sarah cain

January 26, 2010 - 4:17pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Thank God I am finding this post even if it has been long posted. I am abut relieve I have been wondering what is happening to me at some point I thought I might have cancer of the head . It has been 1 year 7 months I had my baby girl through c-section and two days later I experienced this headache that could make me beg for death. The nurses just gave me paracetamol and that's all . Since then I have been experiencing this headaches it comes and go my head is constantly in pain up till now I decided to could heck if anyone has ever gotten this kind of pain. Just now I am realising there is something more to it I really need help I cant go on like this please

June 12, 2017 - 1:04pm
EmpowHER Guest

I also had a spinal headache! I didn't have it right away though it was 3 or fours days after I had my little girl! I couldn't sit up at all it was too painful! I had tingling sensations running down my arms and was very dizzy! We finally went to the hospital and the wait was 4 and half hours and they sent me home saying it was stress! Nope I dont think stress hurts you that bad! After two days passed my mom called my doctor and he told me to immediately get back to the hospital and that he would call them! So I was there for maybe 5 minutes and they had me in the back getting a blood patch.... After getting the blood patch it felt better right away!

July 29, 2009 - 11:03am

I just had a spinal tap last week, and one of the symptoms I had to watch out for afterwards was the possibility of a spinal headache. I'd never heard of this before, and I'm glad to see your article about it so that more people are aware that it can happen after a procedure like an epidural or spinal tap.

July 28, 2009 - 9:58am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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