Question: Is Pregnancy After Spinal Fusion Safe?
Answer: Yes, generally speaking, although some extra precautions may be required.
I don’t have any personal experience with this one, but I’ve done some research and here’s what I’ve found.
While there isn’t a ton of info online about pregnancy after spinal fusion, there’s lots of anecdotal evidence suggesting that it’s entirely possible to have a safe pregnancy and delivery with a surgically fused spine. However, there are some extra things to consider.
Wait Until You’re Fully Fused
While I know these things don’t always go according to plan, it’s best to postpone getting pregnant until you’re fully fused. The general consensus seems to be about one year post-op, which should be enough time for your bones to fuse and to reduce the risk of a failed fusion.
I’d suggest taking it a step further and not leaving it to chance. Request imaging to confirm that your fusion is solid before trying to conceive. A year is a good rule of thumb, but it’s not a guarantee. Sometimes it can take longer than a year to fully fuse.
Be Prepared for a C-Section
Having a spinal fusion doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll need to have a C-Section – I’ve read a number of accounts from women who had safe vaginal deliveries after a fusion. However, you (and your OB/midwife) need to be prepared for the possibility of a C-Section. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, if your lumbar spine is fused, the range of motion in your pelvis is likely to be limited, which may place an unsafe amount of pressure on your spinal cord during a natural delivery.
Also (less commonly) the structure of your entire pelvic region may shift after a fusion. This could potentially alter the positioning of your birth canal, which could complicate a vaginal delivery. I didn’t find much information about this, but I wanted to mention it, as it may be of particular concern to someone with a high grade spondylolisthesis.
Possible Issues with an Epidural
So here’s where a vaginal delivery can get tricky. If your birth plan includes an epidural, you need to be aware that your spinal fusion may make this very difficult, if not impossible. There are other options for pain relief, like a spinal block or IV meds. But the most important takeaway is that you need to discuss your birth plan with your OB and anesthesiologist ahead of time. Considering how difficult it may be to administer an epidural, your anesthesiologist may refuse to even attempt it without prior planning.
So keep in mind that if you choose to have a vaginal delivery, you may be signing up for a natural (medication-free) delivery. This is a completely personal choice – just make sure you have all the facts before you make a decision.
I was able to find a couple of articles on pregnancy after spinal fusion (here and here), but most of the above info came from various pregnancy forums and a spondylolisthesis support group on Facebook. I’d love to include your story in this conversation. If you’ve been pregnant after a spinal fusion or if you have an knowledge on the subject, will you add it to the comments?
For more commonly asked questions, visit my Spinal Fusion FAQ page.
I had an Anterior and posterior spinal fusion, T10-S1 pelvis and found out a month later I was pregnant. I’m due in July. My back hurts a lot and my pelvis hurts when I walk. I honestly think its the hormones, because before it wasn’t as painful. My neurosurgeon said the only reason I wouldn’t be able to give birth vaginally is if the baby got to big because of the screws in my pelvis. Other than that I shouldn’t have any problems. We shall see. I do worry about the epidural and breastfeeding if I have a cesarean. I plan to EBF. My whole mind is in a whirl.
Hi I had a spinal fusion done in 2008 due to Scoliosis, I was 18. I got pregnant and had my baby last year. I told the anesthesiologist about this and he had no problem doing the epidural and I got to deliver my baby naturally. It’s been 17 months after my delivery and I don’t notice any difference in my back. Everything feels fine. Thank you for sharing this topic with others!
Dena Wagel says
Hello I am an Admin on a Pregnancy and Spondylolisthesis FB group and here is my story…feel free to contact me on Facebook or at email@example.com
Dena Wagel’s Pregnancy & Spondylolisthesis Story
By Dena Marie Turner Wagel on Sunday, November 2, 2014 at 4:15 PM
Dena Wagel – Pregnancy & Spondylolisthesis Story: Giving Birth Before and After Spinal Fusion
By Dena Marie Turner Wagel on Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 2:27pm
Before I travel down this memory lane of giving birth…I want you to know I would do it all over again! To have my 3 boys that are so precious to me, is priceless and the price I have paid was worth it.
It brings tears to my eyes as I type just thinking about not having one of them. I had a so called friend of mine once say to me…”How could you put your life and your child’s life in danger by getting pregnant again after your spinal fusion?” It was one of the most hurtful things someone has ever said to me. Because for one…I was told there would be no problems…go ahead get pregnant. After fearing for the future before surgery and going through an entire year until I was strong enough and I was pain free enough to get off the pain medications…I asked the question to my doctors…can I have another child? My husband and I still wanted more children. When the doctors said yes, that my back was in better shape now then when I was pregnant with my first two children. I was so excited! Scared? Of course…I had two hard long labors with my first 2 children but nothing like what was going to take place with my 3rd child! My husband and I had talked about adopting..we had two sons and would like to have a daughter but would be happy with either a son or daughter. Within a week after going off the pill I became pregnant! There’s no going back now! Being Pregnant has never been a problem for me, I always loved it! There is nothing in this world more amazing than feeling your child grow, move and kick inside of you!
I was totally unaware that I had spondylolisthesis with the first two pregnancies and deliveries. Looking back for clues throughout my life. I remember a few. Such as… if I laid flat on my back on the floor my back would start hurting instantly or If I would lay in a tanning bed ….it would be hard for me to get up out of a laying position. The simple exercise of laying on our back and bending your legs with feet on floor and then lifting your buttocks, this was a problem for me. I remember once not being able to do this at all. Another memory I have is not being able to get off the couch for an entire day because of my back locking up on me and I wasn’t able to move, and the pain was intense but the next day it was totally gone. Knowing what I know now..I can’t believe those things didn’t send me straight to a doctor with worry! I’d say its from being young and naive and not thinking anything could be wrong with me! At the age of 26 I married and I remember my husband telling me the first time he ran his hand down my back…something isn’t right…you have a bump…its like a bone and a bone shouldn’t be poking out your lower spine like that…I remember telling him…that’s been like that, I can’t remember how long it’s been like that. For some reason this didn’t worry me, I guess because I had no lower back pain.
I gave birth to my first son in 1996. The cord was wrapped around his neck and he was stuck in the birth canal for a very long time (I was in labor for about 22 hours)when he finally came out he seriously looked like one of the ConeHeads from Saturday Night Live!! But his head quickly went back to regular shape after a few weeks. He weighed 8.5 lbs. There were no other problems or concerns from the doctors. My second son was born in 1999 and he was the easiest birth. He weighed 10.5 lbs. The only problem was he was 10 days late and my water had to be broken and labor induced. The epidural needle broke off in my back and they had to redo it all over again… When it broke off this liquid was bubbling up under my skin of my back and I could painfully feel it doing so, finally they peeled the tape off to see what the problem was and seen it was broken! But his delivery was normal for the most part.
Another symptom I remember having before I had children was sciatic nerve pain that came on suddenly when I would have to drive my car for a long distance..which meant driving to work every day. I would have to lift up my butt cheek so I wouldn’t have pain shooting down my leg while driving…iThis pain began to disappeared as soon as I became pregnant with my first child and was totally gone after I had him.
I was symptom free after having 2 children..life was going along just fine…no problems That I knew of or recognized as warning signs.
I am one to always do for myself, very impatient and would do heavy lifting or moving things myself instead of asking a man’s help at work and even at home.
The summer before I found out I had Spondylolisthesis…I remember finding a huge rock pile in our woods and decided to get a wagon and fill it up numerous times and I would put these rocks around my flowerbeds!
I would even Carry 50 lbs of dog food on my shoulder from the car that I had bought from the store. If I could manage I would do it.
Then came that life changing day at work…instead of waiting for a man to pick up and move this heavy box for me….I decided to do it myself. As soon as I lifted this box I instantly felt a “popping” and I thought I pulled a muscle..A month goes by and every day is getting worse and worse!
I finally get an xray still thinking I pulled a muscle but didn’t know why it wasn’t feeling any better yet. That is when I found out I had severe spondylolisthesis, a 100% slippage and that I needed an immediate spinal fusion. I could no longer go shopping without sitting and resting…grocery shopping for a weeks worth of groceries was undoable! I could no longer function like I use to without intense pain.
My two boys were 6 and 4 when I had my spinal fusion.
Fast forward to the day I give birth to my 3rd son.
Keep in mind when I got pregnant I knew in my mind that a C-section seemed like the smartest option. If I could do it over and know what I know now…”That sometimes some doctors have no idea what the hell they are talking about!!” I would have left that doctors office and went somewhere else!! But I asked every time I would go in for a pregnancy check up if I could please have a C-section and I would tell them my worries about my spinal fusion and giving birth. I was so happy when I was told that he was breech and I would get my wishes if he stayed that way !! Well sure enough that little stinker decided to turn around in those last weeks and the doctors exact words were “You already had two large babies and if this was your first then we would think of giving you a c-section, but you will have no problems even though you had a spinal fusion that will have nothing to do with it. Did it??? They say no…I SAY YES!!!!!!!!
Ok…so I go to the hospital to have my labor induced…it’s a week past my due date..and it was up to me to wait it out or go to the hospital…I choose to have him on March 2nd. 2005.
As soon as I get my epidural I notice about 15 minutes into it that I am having slight pain and then more intense pain coming back quickly. I kept saying the epidural isn’t working right! (I’m on my 3rd child I am an expert as far as I am concerned! I know what epidurals feel like when they work and when they don’t ) They keep dosing me up with it and it works for a little bit then starts wearing off as quick as can be!! They never seen anything like it they say! Oh Great I think…here we go again! So it’s not working at all..at this point I am begging please just give me a C-Section…this isn’t good!! The metal in my back is blocking the epidural from working!!! and then they decided to give me a Spinal!!! Which is suppose to numb you from the waist down…Unbelieveable! It doesn’t work either!!!! By this time…he is coming and I am screaming like a lunatic cause he won’t come out and I know it has been a loooonnng time with me pushing and nothing happening!!! I am at this point getting so exhausted and panicking knowing that I need an emergency C-section and it was mentioned but apparently too late because it was at the point that this baby had to come out now! The doctor and nurses are panic stricken now…and he yells at one of the nurses that the baby has to come out now! So she jumps up on the bed and straddles my stomach facing away from me and pushes down as hard as she possible can and the doctor is pulling on my son’s head and trying to get him out..he was stuck under my pelvic bone I was later told….well my son was seconds from dying that day and I guess you can look at it as the doctor & nurses saved his life? but this could have all been prevented!!! I was angry for many years about the whole ordeal and felt if the doctors would have listened to me andI could have had a C-section none of this would have happened!
That day when they yanked my son out he was limp, lifeless and blue! I wasn’t allowed to hold him of course as he was rushed out of the room. I didn’t know what an ApGar score was at that time but found out his score was a 3 which is not good. I later went to the special care nursery where they were preparing to take an x-ray of his skull…no one had told me anything…I think they were trying to keep things hush hush so to speak. I ask what they were doing and why? There might be a possible skull fracture because of the indention to the head from the trauma cause with getting him out. He didn’t have a fracture though…but was kept in Special Care because of the head trauma and stomach distress and they were watching him for signs of any lasting trauma caused from the delivery. He had red rings around his pupils..I forget what this was called…from the trauma…he cried a lot at first and was cranky …from headaches they thought he must have. I will never forget the pediatrician that came there to check him out telling me…it will be just a wait and see thing to know if there is any physical or mental damage done to my child.
Dena Wagel – Pregnancy & Spondylolisthesis Story: Continuation of Giving Birth Before & After A Spinal Fusion (My Experience)
By Dena Marie Turner Wagel on Friday, March 16, 2012 at 9:09am
Last night when I signed off I got to thinking about that night giving birth to my 3rd son.
Let me back up a bit, I would like to tell you a little more of that evening I forgot to share.
Now mind you IF YOU GET SQUEAMISH OR OFFENDED BY DETAILS AND THINK I SHOULDN’T SHARE SO MUCH ABOUT MYSELF OR MY EXPERIENCE THEN PLEASE STOP READING NOW…
I think sometimes things are not talked about for embarrassment. I wish someone would have told me things, maybe warnings from doctors, or other woman telling me things about giving birth. So if by me telling you some things I went through might help you or if you ever experience them you will know someone that has had the same thing happen. There is a huge comfort in knowing you are not alone! I welcome any questions! I am a very open person as I am sure you will begin to realize as you continue reading.
With my first child I believe I cracked my tail bone…It was over a year before I could sit on the floor without a donut pillow under my rear!
My 2nd child…he was the 10.5 lb. vaginal birth and my 2nd large baby. No one told me about the possibility of your bladder or your uterus to drop. I guess doctors don’t want to worry or scary you or feel like it’s not their concern. When my periods got back on track I proceeded to wear a tampon. This however was a problem for me. It kept coming back out. I got a mirror and give a look at that area while sitting on a toilet. (never feel embarrassed to look at yourself! it’s not a dirty thing or something we shouldn’t do…it’s a part of our body). I seen something strange..something different than before…I didn’t know what it was at the time …but it was my bladder protruding. Fast forward…I went to my gynecologist and she told me what I was seeing and with Kegal Exercising and over time that my Bladder would shrink back up to where I would no longer see it or feel it. (I would also feel a “Heavy” feeling down low in my belly if I sat on a hard surfaces which also was a symptom). It took about 6 to 9 months I would say for everything to get back to normal. Thank goodness!! That was scary!
Fast forward to after having my 3rd son. Since he was pulled out, yanked, torn, ripped..out of my body…this also did terrible damage to me..not only did my bladder & uterus fall, but the visible outside damage was mortifying to say the least! I remember immediately after giving birth the doctor was attempting to sew the tearing that took place and I could feel this happening..as remember the epidual and spinal never took its full effect and wore off within minutes after administrating…My Vaginal area was soooo swollen I remember thinking it looked like a Bamboo’s ASS! It was Horribly swollen-I had a massive Hematoma!!!…which amazingly all disappeared over I’d say about a week.I had a Vaginal Cystocele, Rectocele and a Vaginal Prolapse starting…all of this corrected it’s self over the course of a year I would say…very slowly going back to normal. I think I was really lucky not to have to have surgery or any lasting problems from it. My OB did tell me when I got older my bladder or uterus will possible fall again and have to have surgery to tack it all back up. Not surprising to me.
Those were the least of my problems though! I didn’t focus on myself I had a little boy that need my care and lots of it in the days and years to come! Continued in my next document. Or by the time I am done…my book will be called… Horror, Happiness and Hope!
Dena Wagel’s Pregnancy & Spondylolisthesis Story – Traumatic Birth … Now What??
By Dena Marie Turner Wagel on Friday, March 16, 2012 at 9:50am
I was sent home from that hospital with so many question, concerns, worries and fears in my head. I had two little boys at home waiting to see their new baby brother. The wait and see approach by the pediatrician was insensitive I thought and I did change practices and went to a more caring practice for my children. No one checked up on my son or gave me information about what was available out there if there were any physical or mental problems that should arise. I think the Doctor and hospital was hoping to keep everything hush hush in hopes nothing bad would happen out of it all and that I wouldn’t try to sue. I forgot to tell you that there were also forceps and vacuum used on my son’s head and neither worked…the vacuum flew off and spayed blood everywhere all over the room…my husband, mother and mother-in- law can tell their own horror stories of watching what went on that night they were in the delivery room and they were also traumatized by the whole ordeal. I found out later in his records that the lacerations and indention on my son’s right temple was a concern (caused by forceps) as a head ultrasound was done to see if there was any bleeding on the brain and an x-ray given. They also did a test called Capillary Blood Gas…this was done to see if there was any evidence of damage from being deprived of oxygen. All these tests came back normal thank god!! They were also monitoring him because of some rhymtic seizure activity they notice right after he was born….because his leg, hand and mouth were making these movements at the same time. I found alot of these things out AFTER I requested all of his medical records from the hospital. Things that no one told me about.
After arriving home with my son…over the days and months we watched him like a hawk of course! Wondering if every little thing was something to worry about or caused by the traumatic birth he had. Some things were caused by this and some were just my obsessive worrying about him!
1.) He had this stiffness about him…when you held him I instantly noticed he didn’t lay his head on my shoulder as my other two sons had done. He was just very stiff and straight…
2.) When you laid him on a blanket on the floor..he would arch his back.
3.) Then we started noticing that he couldn’t lift his head for very long and his head would lay over to the side on his shoulder.
Well come to find out he had what was called “Torticollis” from torn ligaments in his neck.
He was behind at rolling over and crawling. He got behind in his physical development.
His pediatrician told me about a service called “FIRST STEPS” that would send Therapists to my home. It had nothing to do with income only with what your child needed! they charged what you could afford. It cost minimal amount compared to taking a child to a therapist somewhere…this service would last until a child was 3 years old. My son had physical therapy, Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy until he was 3 years old! We found out when he was 2 years old with my persistence to get him a hearing test that the reason he was having speech problems and talking late was because of fluid in his ears!! Nothing was developmentally wrong with my child! Like they were thinking…He just couldn’t hear us!! They told me what he was hearing was a muffled sound …once this was taken care of ..every thing would speed up and he caught up to where he was suppose to be. It took 2 days a week Physical Therapy and a speech therapist came 2 days a week for 2 years before his neck was corrected and he also had some sensory issues…I don’t know if it was related to the traumatic birth or not…but his taste buds were off a bit…sour things weren’t sour to him….he couldn’t stand having sticky on his hands..still to this day he cant. He hated things touching his bare feet…this is where the occupational therapy came in to play.
Once he was 3 no more problems all was great!!!!
Anyways…one more very alarming thing happened….he had 2 seizures….this was in Late September when he was 5 years old and 3 weeks later it happened again but it hasn’t happened since then! Nothing on his brain scan showed up! Nothing showed up on the EEG so they did a Sleep deprived EEG…this showed signs of seizure activity they told me and that we should make sure to have him on a regular sleeping routine and pattern, make sure he gets enough sleep and goes to sleep at the same time every night. Don’t sleep deprive him. The Neurologist told me that since there was not evident reason why this happened nothing wrong with the brain on the scan*this was the least serious of seizure type and will go away…and since it only happened those 2 times…Seizures have been known to happen after a head trauma even years later….and since my son’s brain is growing he said it was just like healing it self and shorted out for a second…and if a child goes a year without having another then the likely of it happening again is slim to none. ITS BEEN TWO and 1/2 years!! But yes i will always worry and always watch my child closely and fiercly be his advocate! Thank you for reading my long story…if it didn’t help anyone or relate to anyones experiences it at least helped me to write it. Thank you for letting me do that.
Also..one more thing…I will never forget his physical therapist saying this about my son and it was the truest and closest thing anyone ever told me …That from my son’s brain trauma…the brain got scattered and was like a hard drive on a computer that lost all of its memory and has to be reprogrammed! We had to show our son at that early age how to crawl and do certain things, sign language, clap…he never sang songs……but then he would catch on…He was VERY VERY lucky not to have Cerebral Palsy or another sort of brain damage from this ordeal or permanent physical damage…all of this could have been avoided if someone would have said>>> Hey since you have Spondylolistheis and had a very extensive Spinal fusion…you should have a C-Section…not a Vaginal Birth..In my case I should have been able to decide to have a C-section.. not them!!
My son is a healthy, bright child with no side effects as of today. He is 7 and his name is TRENT and I thank god everyday for letting me keep him.
I am adding on this story…Today Is November 2nd and my son Trenton is 9 year old now..he hasn’t had a seizure since he was 5 years old when within 3 weeks of each other he fell to the group with two of them..
It wasn’t until 3 years ago when I found the Spondylolisthesis group that Brenna Poole had created and she had asked me to be an administrator to help her with the Main group and to also be an admin on this pregnancy group, because of my experiences and we both had the same thought patterns and similar personalities and became friends quickly.
I have a 100% slippage, I also had a spinal fusion in 2002. I gave birth to my 3rd son in 2005.
When I started to talk to other woman about 3 years ago in both of these groups I started to notice a pattern. I started to realize I wasn’t the only one out there that had a traumatic birth happen to their child and to them as well. Not until then did I find out WHY my son became STUCK under my pelvis! it was because my spondy made my pelvis tilt and my fusion froze it in that position! I kept coming across other woman that also had a high grade spondylolisthesis and also had a spinal fusion and also their child become stuck as well!!!! That is when I figured out and came across the unmistakeable fact that when you have spondylolisthesis…your pelvis will likely start to tilt…the worst the grade the more likely the tilt. Having a low grade spondylolisthesis isn’t usually a problem with DELIVERY and pelvic tilt. Not that it doesn’t happen, but those who see problems- especially after having a spinal fusion and are with high grades. Higher Grades are anything past a grade 2 spondylolisthesis. Why? Because the pelvic structure is more rotated and literally frozen in that position – meaning there is no flexibility after having a spinal fusion. So the baby becomes stuck and can not push past the pelvic area. A lower grade may cause similar issues, but is less likely to do so unless additional variables are involved.
So my strong advice and something I want to make sure woman that are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant and also have spondylolisthesis know my story…and realize they have a higher chance..more of a risk, if they have had a spinal fusion and they have a higher grade spondylolisthesis…that I strongly advice having a C-section….no matter what your doctors tell you! Find a doctor that will let you have an elective C-section! I listened to my doctors, I had no idea having a high grade spondylolisthesis could tilt my pelvis and create more of a risk for my child to become stuck! …and although I realize no one can predict an outcome…I had a mothers intuition that something was going to go wrong that my child would have trouble and I thought I could get a c-section when I asked for it…I was wrong. I also thought if something did go wrong that there would be time to get an emergency c-section..in my case there was no time…This was in 2002 ..but even to this day there are some doctors that don’t realize the bad outcomes that can happen.Some doctors do know the risks and tell woman they must have a c-section…some don’t realize the risks. But I am here to tell you…there is a risk. One I shouldn’t have had to taken! My choice was ignored and it almost cost me my sons life.
I have since then made it my goal to spread awareness of Spondylolisthesis and also spread awareness of the dangers of having a vaginal delivery when you have a higher grade spondylolisthesis with a spinal fusion. If I can help woman out there in this world just by sharing my story..to let them know what happened to me…and if one of them find themselves in a similar situation…and they are able to change the outcome of how their baby will be born…I will feel like I have done something that matters, that is important! I don’t ever want anyone to experience what I did and what my child experienced.
I had my entire spine fused.
Hi there my name is stacie I’m 29 i had L1 L2 and L3 fused after burst fracturing them in car accident. I found out I was pregnant six and a half months after fusion. I stopped the ibuprofen and gabapentin I was on. things were just fine but now six and a half months pregnant I am starting to feel back pain while I’m working. I think it’s just the displacement of weight I have only gained 11 pounds but as stomach grows out I’m kinda suffering with out being able to take anything for my pain. I’m due in April so I will check back In i plan on c section just because I don’t want to risk the fusion anymore than I have. I’m due in april and will let you know what happens. I believe it’s worth it.
Sharon Wilhelm says
Hi Stacie! I’m sorry for taking so long to respond. You’re getting close to the big day – how are you doing?
Hi! I came across this website after rigorously searching recourse re: spinal fusion and surgery. I am fused T4-L4 for scoliosis. I am preparing for pregnancy plans in the near future. Stacie how did it turn it out for you? I hope you had a successful delivery
Erin L Gay says
I had a full spinal fusion done on my spine when I was 12 in 2005. I’m fused everywhere besides my neck and 3 vertebrae at the bottom lumbar. I got pregnant in 2012 and had my son in January 2013. I had a good pregnancy definitely a lot of discomfort but I stayed active and was a waitress up until 9 months. I couldn’t receive an epidural so they had to put me to sleep to have a c section. My son was healthy 8lbs 8oz. And the recovery took a little longer due to not being able to bend. Felt like the incision kept stretching. My spine is worse now in my lower unfused vertebrae and my neck has herniated disk. But I was also in a head on collision when my son was 8 months old and my ex was abusive and injured my neck too. So it’s hard to tell if was due to the pregnancy or not. But I’m lucky to have my happy 7 year old now I didnt think I was able to have kids and he is my miracle baby