There are many myths surrounding the topic of scoliosis and pregnancy. Let’s look at some of the top ones, and then I’ll share recommendations based on research, my own two pregnancies, and those of the many scoli clients I’ve worked with. (If you’re interested in learning more about how to take care of your scoliosis, I highly recommend my new book, I Have Scoliosis; Now What?*. It covers many topics, from pregnancy and bracing to surgery and nutrition and is useful no matter how long ago you were diagnosed.)
Myth 1: You can’t get pregnant if you have scoliosis.
There is no evidence to support this myth, and it’s a particularly damaging one. I have witnessed the horrible ramifications of people being told this false statement. Countless women are told by their doctors to never have children because their spines couldn’t handle it, so these women never pursued marriage and/or children.
Women have wept in my arms after I told them that they can in fact have children. They have shed tears of shame, of lost relationships, of lost child-bearing years, but also of joy in the hope that lies ahead.
Recently, I received the following message from a woman with scoliosis:
“I was told that if I had any more kids that I could possibly be paralyzed! I had three more kids after I went to that doctor and never ended up paralyzed.”
So, yes, you can be pregnant and have scoliosis. Scoliosis does not leave you infertile and unable to bare children. I have two healthy sons that I birthed from my body. Through my Pilates studio, I’ve known countless women who have scoliosis and have had successful pregnancies. I also know women around the world who have scoliosis and have had children. (If you’d like to read more about my pregnancy, scoliosis journey, I tell it in depth in The Beautiful Scoliotic Back.)
Myth 2: It’s too risky to become pregnant if you’ve had spinal fusion surgery.
This is simply not true. Many people with fusions safely and successfully deliver babies around the world. Princess Eugenie is a famous example of someone who has done this, and I also personally know many women who’ve successfully birthed healthy babies after having had spinal fusion surgery.
Research came out from a 30-year study comparing people who’ve been fused to those with scoli who hadn’t been fused noting the incidence of having a c-section. The research showed that those who’d had surgery had a much higher c-section rate than those who hadn’t been fused. Importantly, this research didn’t say women who were fused shouldn’t become pregnant, it simply stated they had c-sections at a higher rate.
After reading this research I put out feelers to see what the fused part of the scoli community had to say. Surprisingly, the responses I received from the fused community did not parallel with what the research found. Read below for some of the responses I received on social media:
- “I had scoliosis surgery in 1996 ago from T4-L2. I had a vaginal birth with both of my children, with an epidural for my first but not my second. Having a c-section was not an option nor was it forced on me unless it was medically necessary. Both deliveries were a success without any complications.”
- “Obstetricians pressure patients with fusions to have c-sections, although there’s not necessarily any reason to do this. Many of my fused students (I’m a yoga instructor) have had relatively easy vaginal or even home births.”
- “I had scoliosis fusion surgery as an adolescent and gave birth vaginally to two babies when I was older. One concern I had was whether there was enough space below the rod for an epidural. There was. I had no issues carrying or delivering my kids.”
- “I had fusion surgery at age 13 in 1978. I did not have a c-sections for either of my two children. Epidurals were useless on me.”
- “My surgery was done when I was 14 in 2005, and it goes from T3-L1. I just had my first baby three weeks ago, and something I learned was that I couldn’t get an epidural during labor because of my rods! No one ever talks about that. Luckily, I found out early in my pregnancy and was able to mentally and physically prepare for natural labor. No c-section or epidural here.”
- “I had five back surgeries, three of which were spinal fusions. I had two babies 21 months apart, both naturally, with no epidurals as the anesthesiology team got freaked out when they saw my X-rays. Ha! No issues carrying and delivering. I’m 37 now.”
- “No c-section here. I had three natural births after I had my spinal fusion. A c-section was not considered nor offered.”
As discussed, everyone is different and will have a different experience not only with scoli but also childbirth. You can get pregnant if you have scoli. You can deliver your child if you have scoli, even if you are fused. You simply need to be well aware of what is going on with your body so that you can make the best choices for you, your body, and your child.
The following are some things to consider along your journey. They are based on research, personal experience, and that of my many clients.
- Hormones do play a factor in many people’s scoliosis, so as your hormones change while you’re pregnant and breastfeeding you’ll want to keep a close eye on your scoli. When I was pregnant with my eldest son, my spine became almost totally straight. With my second pregnancy, it wound up like a corkscrew. I knew of these changes because I kept having regular massages during my pregnancies and my masseuses knew what my body was like before I was pregnant. We were easily able to stay on top of it.
- It’s important to have trusted practitioners that you regularly see before, during, and after this hormone-fluctuating time to make sure your spine stays happy and healthy. If you need help figuring out who to see, I talk about it more in my book I Have Scoliosis; Now What?. My instructors and I at Spiral Spine are always available to be a part of your team as well in person or virtually.
- If you choose to have an epidural while you’re in labor, make sure to get the most skilled anesthesiologist at the hospital to administer it. Tell them you have scoliosis, and if you have an X-ray of your lumbar spine, bring it with you. It will help the anesthesiologist ensure the epidural gets inserted correctly. Talk with your doctor and consult with the anesthesiologist about an epidural prior to giving birth, especially if you have a fusion. This will help your delivery team make a plan so you focus on giving birth instead of your spine.
- Once you’ve given birth, be mindful of how you carry your new bundle of joy. Many of us with scoli are strongest when we sink into our curves, and that’s how we carry our kids. While we feel stronger in that position, it’s usually not very good for our spines. I’m pretty sure this was one of the reasons my scoli increased after my second son. I didn’t think about how I was carrying him and didn’t have the strength to come out of my curves, so I sunk into them as I was caring for my newborn and my other son who was just 21 months older.
To sum it all up, scoliosis will not stop you from becoming pregnant nor delivering a baby. Like always, listen to your body and give it what it’s asking for. Should you need it, my team and I are here to help.
Erin Myers is an international presenter on scoliosis and founder of Spiral Spine, a company designed to enrich the lives of people with scoliosis. She’s also created a number of scoliosis resources including the books I Have Scoliosis; Now What? and Analyzing Scoliosis, the scoliometer app (iPhone and Android) and many videos. She owns Spiral Spine Pilates studio in Brentwood, TN, which allows her to actively pursue her passion of helping those with scoliosis through Pilates, which she has been doing for over 15 years.
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