Babies and Brains

(That title sounds a little like a zombie’s diet, no?)

Tomorrow I have an appointment with my neurologist. I made the appointment months ago when I was in the middle of a horrible headache cycle. I’m pretty thrilled to say that my head has actually been pretty good for the past month. Apparently pregnancy agrees with one part of my body.

I’m still going to the neurologist even though the headaches are better because I have a few pressing questions for her. And I decided I may as well go now and have these conversation instead of putting it off.

When I was initially diagnosed with Chiari I was told I wouldn’t be able to give birth naturally. The thing about Chiari is that you don’t want to do anything to increase the pressure in your head. And while I have never tried to push a baby out of my nethers, I understand that it takes a bit of force. And that force absolutely increases the pressure in your head. So the worry is that in pushing you’ll be basically also pushing your brain even further out of your skull. That’s not so much a bundle of joy as much as a bundle of holy crap.

My husband, (who’s a practicing neurologist right now) is of the opinion that because I’ve had the decompression surgery and I actually have chronically low intracranial pressure, that delivering a baby won’t be a problem for my brain. I tend to think that he’s probably right (whoa, did I just actually type those words?) I mostly just want the blessing of someone who has looked at several of my MRIs and can give me an objective opinion.

The second part of what I need to talk about is trickier. I have a really rough history with needles in my spine. Every time someone puts one in there, I spring a leak. A leak of spinal fluid, which is NOT something you ever want to leak. So the whole epidural thing is a a bit of a concern. I worry that getting one will result in another spinal fluid leak that will wreak further havoc on my already sagging brain. Simultaneously I worry that there is no way in hell I can give birth to a kid without one.

I have never been jazzed about the idea of them in the first place because I hate being numb so very much, but the thought of the pain is also not all that appealing.

I might also discuss with her if there’s any reason why my headaches would be better now, pressure wise. Obviously there’s a hormonal possibility, but since my headaches were never hormonally charged before it’s hard to imagine that it was driven by that in the first place. I’m wondering if the increased circulation could be a part of the solution, but I realize it could also be about 20 other factors, so hopefully she’ll have some insight.

And if nothing else, it’s another person I’m allowed to actually say, out loud, that I’m pregnant to. Despite spilling it to all of you, I haven’t gotten to say it out loud that many times yet. I know that there will come a time for telling, but it’s still fun in the meantime.

Hopefully this appointment is full of as much good news as the last one. Well okay, since there will be no baby viewing it’s unlikely, but hopefully there will still be good news anyway.

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9 Responses to “Babies and Brains”

  • I was wondering if that would help since you have…(forget how much) more blood flowing through your body when baking a baby! As far as childbirth, try not to be afraid of it and if an epidural isn’t an option, and with what you say I would not even consider it especially since you will be taking care of a newborn right after. There are other options, and ways to make childbirth less scary and painful. I am sure you will find them!


  • Bella:

    My sister was advised to never get pregnant due to severe asthma and other serious health issues but she was able to deliver a healthy baby AND her health improved while pregnant and after! Not one doctor understood why, so… maybe the life force is greater than we can understand.

    I wish you a very healthy pregnancy and hope a natural (epidural free) delivery is possible. You have triumphed through more challenges than most of us will ever know.


  • Katherine:

    If you are cleared to give birth vaginally, doing it w/o an epidural is doable. I’ve done it twice. It is of course painful and feels overwhelming at certain points. A good doula and good preparation were key for us. Also laboring at home for as long as is safe helps a lot. Once you are at the hospital, the narcotics they put in your iv do help some, mainly because you can doze off between contractions instead of focusing on dreading the next one.

    If you need a c-section, can’t they do that under general anesthesia if circumstances warrant? It seems like your circumstances would be enough for them to consider it.

    I’m so excited for you. I’ve had 3 babies and they are the biggest thrill of my life. It’s an awesome adventure. I hope your headache relief proves permanent even after the baby comes.


    Joy Reply:

    @Katherine, I’ve delivered vaginally three times without pain meds or epidurals. I agree a good doula will help tremendously, and so does labouring at home as long as possible. Get the doula as soon as you can – she can help alleviate your anxiety sooner than later, and is someone else you can count on to be your advocate through pregnancy, labour and delivery.


  • Can’t help you there-two kids, two C-sections prior to that Chiari I diagnosis. I had no choice on the second one, because while your circulation does improve during pregnancy, your blood also thickens tremendously.

    For the average woman this is good, it prevents you from bleeding out during childbirth. For me, it means my already clot-prone blood is even more likely to do some nasty things.

    So, if I had to hazard a guess, the thickened blood and higher volume is helping your low intercranial pressure. If so, you’ll be enjoying less headaches until about 2 months post partum. :)


  • Cynthia:

    I have back issues and had to give birth under a ‘quick’ general anesthetic and a C section. I wasn’t awake and my husband couldn’t be in the room but It was easy peasy. And the recovery wasnt bad at all.


  • As a labor and delivery nurse, my opinion is to go to your OB next and ask their opinion. I can tell you right now, if you arrived on our unit with your medical history, there is no way in hell our OB’s or Anesthesiologists would take a chance with you….you’d be a primary section under general anesthesia. It’s all about covering their asses…and the “what if’s”…you know that!


  • Kiley:

    If you get cleared for a vaginal birth, I honestly think with all the pain you have dealt with in your head, that labor pains may feel like tickles. But I second hiring a doula.


  • Sam:

    This will be lengthy, sorry. SO….. I had my first PFD surgery in June 08, fell pregnant in January 09, gave birth in October 10 and had a revision PFD surgery in May 11. My OB was concerned about cranial pressure, more so than my neuro – he pretty much said what your hubby said. They both agreed though that I would benefit from an epidural to decrease the amount of pressure when it was time to push. Well, I had the epidural and but after being induced then 24 hours of labour, by the time the pushing bit came around the epidural had all but worn off so I felt everything, pushed for about 40 minutes and my head felt like it was going to explode.

    Now, I don’t usually watch the Kardashians, seriously, but I saw an episode where I think it was that Kourtney chick giving birth and she looked like she was hardly pushing at all, no pain, no grunting, even delivered her own child to a certain extent. I can only assume that she had an epidural and it was turned up WAY high. This I think would be safe for a CM1 sufferer. Perhaps also, with all that blood rushing around your body and extra fluid, you might not spring a leak after an epidural. I would definately go the epidural Kardashian style. I hope to fall pregnant again and will be telling my OB I want this or a C-section. Especially since my neuro removed more skull I in no way want to risk my brain herniating more.

    You have to take care of you so you can take care of bub :)


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I'm Katie, a 30-year-old, wife, mom, former teacher-turned PT, who also had brain surgery in November of 2007. This blog chronicles my daily life, from mundane to crazy, often with far too much detail. Sit down, get comfortable and stay for a while.
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