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During the placement of your epidural, a layer around the spinal fluid, called the dura, was punctured with a needle unintentionally. The puncture of the dura happens on occasion during epidural placement. The hole allows spinal fluid to slowly drain.

You are at risk of developing a “spinal” headache.

A spinal headache usually starts 1 to 3 days after the puncture of the dura and can range from mild to severe. The headache is usually felt in the front or back of the head or may even cause a muscle cramping between your shoulder blades or your neck. It gets worse when you stand or sit. It improves or goes away when you lie down.

Other symptoms may include nausea and vomiting, ringing in your ears, fullness/blocked feeling in your ears, sensitivity to light, and double vision.

Your anesthesiology team can discuss treatment options with you.

The team will follow up with you closely. If you develop a headache, please call:

  • Obstetric Anesthesia Office

  • Labor and Delivery

  • Department of Anesthesia

Ask for the obstetric anesthesiologist. You may also call your obstetrician, who can get in touch with the team.

Things you should know:

  • These headaches typically go away without treatment; however, it can take days to a couple of weeks.

  • The most effective treatment is an epidural blood patch, which your anesthesiologist can explain in detail.

  • Drink enough water to avoid being dehydrated. Eat and sleep to the best of your ability as you would normally.

  • Do not stand for prolonged periods of time, even if the headache is mild.

  • If the headache is severe or you think you need treatment, please contact obstetric anesthesiologist.

  • You can use acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) for pain control, if you do not have any other contraindications to these medications. Do not take more than 600 mg of ibuprofen every 6 hours or more than 1000 mg of acetaminophen every 8 hours.

  • You may also try caffeine.

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