Becoming pregnant following spinal fusion surgery raises several questions for expectant mothers. This is especially true if pregnancy occurs shortly after this procedure is performed. With some exceptions, pregnancy following a spinal fusion is just like any other pregnancy.
How well a fusion will hold up under the added stress of pregnancy depends on how soon after surgery you become pregnant. It takes about a year or so for a fusion to completely take hold following the initial surgery to install the related hardware. If pregnancy occurs shortly after surgery, there is a risk that the fusion will fail.
Natural Birth vs. C-Section
Women who’ve had spinal fusions have the same rate of c-sections as those who haven’t had the procedure, suggesting that the effect on pregnancy is minimal. If there is a concern that natural childbirth will place too much pressure on the affected area of the spine, a cesarean birth may be recommended, although individual factors must be considered when making that decision.
The space where an epidural is placed is right between the vertebrae of the spine and the spinal cord. Whether or not an epidural is even possible depends on whether or not a safe place for the injection can be found and how comfortable your anesthesiologist is with doing the epidural; often determined by the location of the fusion. IV medications or spinal block injections can also help minimize any pain associated with the childbirth process.
Increased Back Pain
Simply having a spinal fusion doesn’t automatically mean more back pain during pregnancy. Pain is only likely to increase if the fusion hasn’t fully formed. If the fusion is either not yet formed or becomes weakened during pregnancy, another fusion surgery may necessary after you recover from delivery.
Some back pain during pregnancy is perfectly normal. When a spinal fusion is part of the equation, however, any pain that’s especially severe or becomes progressively worse should be evaluated. If you have concerns specific to your situation, coordinate with your regular doctor, spine surgeon, and obstetrician to get a better idea of what to expect.
For more information, reach out to The Spine Institute, a leading Los Angeles spine surgery center. Our experienced team of medical professionals can further discuss any challenges of becoming pregnant after spinal fusion in addition to other back treatment options. To schedule a consultation, give us a call at (310) 828-7757.