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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

I have suffered for 4 years as a result of my last c-section, I was bedridden for 3 1/2 years had 2 surgeries and dozens of blood Patches. It was my 3rd and oh it has been awful. I did not get severe symptoms right away it took6 months before I could not handle the headaches. I pray for more awareness and dream of the day I can be a mom again.

February 14, 2019 - 10:02pm
EmpowHER Guest

I had a epidural gone wrong 2.5 years ago I have had many epidurals in the past none like this one. i have 8 children and this last one was the one that got me. I still suffer with spinal headache and my left side going numb all the time. When the epidural was being done the anaestesioligist said oh shit and asked if I felt an headache I cried yes and I could not focus right and felt like I was going to get sick. After 2 days in the hospital I was offered a blood patch with only 30% that it would work, I turned it down in fear they would hurt me more. My newborn son I could not even hold because my back and head hurt so bad. After a week I returned to the er I wanted to hold my son but could not when in the er an anaestesiologist came to take with my and said he could not help and said I may get hurt worse. 2.5 years later I still have a lump in my back where the epidural was done I get numbness down my left side and I get instant spinal headaches as well as feeling the fluid in back leak still, when moving the wrong way or if I bend over or try to lift something light. I live on a farm have 8 children and cannot not do day to day chores or play with my kids I am so limited. I have owned a construction company in which i used to do the work now my husband has to because of this epidural gone wrong. So how can you fix this?????????????

September 19, 2017 - 4:07pm
HERWriter Guide (reply to Anonymous)

Hello Anon

Thank you for writing, I am sorry you're in so much pain, it really sounds awful. 

Who are you working with now, to get treatment? You need to see an anesthesiologist who can help you with these severe side effects. 



September 20, 2017 - 3:47pm
EmpowHER Guest

I had the same pain after 2 days of c section. My doctor also advised me to take much coffee and also prescribed a homeopathic medicine. I did not take the coffee as i don't like much. Instead the medicine did the wonder for me. Name of the medicine was Hypericum. 5 tablets, 4 times a day for 7 days.

February 3, 2017 - 12:51pm

yes it is true in spinal the headache is inevitable, while in epidural the headache is nil, reason is in epidural the dura is not punctured so csf does not leak,
if a wheel is raised epidural will not cause any pain.

December 15, 2011 - 6:25am
EmpowHER Guest

Although this post was a few years ago now, i just wanted to say that i too had a spinal headache for 10 days after having my twins. I had a spinal block, i was told the risk of a Post dural puncture (spinal) headache was less with a spinal block than an epidural as the epidural needle is much bigger.... but go figure i still got it! it was the worse 10 days of my life, especially being told i have to lay down (which did make me feel better but..) I JUST HAD TWINS! how on earth was i meant to stay laying down for 10 days! I choose not to have the blood patch, but was advised if it hadnt gone within two weeks to return and have the proceedure done.

December 4, 2011 - 4:35am
EmpowHER Guest

I just found this post and wanted to say that I suffered from the excruciating pain of an epidural headache for three months before being finally fixed with a blood patch. Please read my story at http://www.epidural.net/epiduralheadache.htm

April 13, 2011 - 11:12pm
(reply to Anonymous)

Thank you for sharing your story. It is a horrible pain. I can personally attest to that. I'm glad the nurses took me seriously and made my anesthesiologist come back in my own case.
Take care

April 14, 2011 - 7:43am

My patients never had any headache after epidural anaesthesia, Headache is very common in the spinal anaesthesia.
epidural anaesthesia is a bit difficult to place the needle in space, while spinal space is easy to locate
Headache persist for ten days.
don't hesitate for further any qeryy on my email.

April 8, 2010 - 1:14pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to dr a k garg)

Sir,I have severe after four days of caesarean. I became very severe while standing,walking.what is the remedy and is their any issue to worry

August 21, 2016 - 12:19am
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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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