'My Painful Headache After Giving Birth Was Actually A Spinal Bleed'

Birth Diaries: "My head was killing me. I’d stayed in hospital that night and it was unbearable the next day."

In HuffPost Birth Diaries we hear the extraordinary stories of the everyday miracle of birth. This week, Emma Wilson shares her story. If you’d like to share yours, email amy.packham@huffpost.com.

My second pregnancy started off well, but I developed SPD – symphysis pubis dysfunction – in the middle of it, which was debilitating. SPD is a group of symptoms causing discomfort in the pelvic region. “Discomfort” is putting it lightly, though. My pelvic joints were stiff and moved unevenly. It was hard to sleep, hard to move. Towards the end of my pregnancy, I got quite depressed.

I wanted a natural labour, but the gynaecologist had advised against this. With my first son, I went into labour earlier than planned and didn’t progress, so ended up needing a C-section. They thought this might be the case the second time around, too, which could be dangerous for the baby and me.

It made sense. But I didn’t feel nearly as prepared for the caesarean the second time round. I remember sitting in a park next to the hospital thinking, “this time tomorrow, I’ll have a second child”. I wasn’t ready, and at the time my first son had the flu, so I rang the hospital in the hope they’d defer me. The safest place for you is hospital, they said. They insisted I went in for my C-section anyway.

The next day, at 8.30am, I waddled in – the hospital was only half a mile away from my house – and I was the first up that day to have a C-section. I was far more fearful when they went to anaesthetise me. It was a different experience to my first birth, where I had music playing. But it went ahead smoothly, and my son, Edward, was born and placed on me, giving us skin-to-skin.


The surgeon told me I would never have laboured if I’d gone for a natural birth. “Your uterus is as thin as paper,” he said. It would’ve been a long labour, so it was good I made the decision to have a caesarean.

I was wheeled back to the ward into our private room and the breastfeeding nurse, a wonderful woman named Morag, really helped me – she fought for my son to stay with me while checks were happening. She also worked with me to get him to latch on.

The next day, my head was killing me. I’d stayed in hospital that night and it was unbearable. My partner told the nurse, who said I could be dehydrated. They put me on a drip, lay me down, and let me sleep. Later on, they said I needed to do a trip to the toilet before leaving. But as I stood up off the bed, my head started banging again.

They put me back in my room and got the anaesthetist. I felt fine once I was laying back down, but as the anaesthetist started putting the back rest of the bed up – and my head became higher – I couldn’t take the pain.

They knew something was wrong.

I was rushed back into surgery and told they’d slightly missed my spine when giving me the epidural – I had a spinal bleed. They gave me what’s called an epidural blood patch, where they drew blood from my arm, to sort of “patch up” the hole in my back. I was conscious throughout it all, lying on my front. It was really frightening.

The surgery lasted about half an hour, but it worked instantly for me. As soon as I could sit up again, I was fine and the headache had gone. I ended up leaving hospital perhaps only a day later than I should’ve done.

I’d been home about two days, though, when I realised there was a vein in my groin area that was pulsating and popping out. I rang the hospital, who told me to go back in immediately.

They gave me an MRI, double vitamin K injections and monitored me for two nights. The MRI results came back fine, but I had to say on the jabs, that help prevent blood clots, for a lot longer than normal.

After all that, we were so happy to be at home with our family of four. It was great to finally get stuck into breastfeeding – but that’s a whole other story!

My birth advice?

Manage your visitors when you get home from giving birth. Everyone wants to visit in hospital – but take your time. Don’t put pressure on yourself.