Scoliosis is the sideways curvature of the spine. The spine has an S or a C shape instead of a straight line, and this usually occurs during the growth spurt before puberty. Mild cases do not have any problems while severe cases might be painful.
But does scoliosis affect your chances of getting pregnant or create complications during pregnancy? Most importantly, does it have any effect on the baby? In this post, MomJunction answers all these questions on scoliosis and pregnancy.
How Does Scoliosis Affect Pregnancy?
In most women, scoliosis does not have any impact on pregnancy. Some of the symptoms of severe scoliosis might get more painful during pregnancy. The pain could increase as the center of gravity shifts with the growing belly, and you naturally lean back to support the increasing weight.
- Back pain: In some severe cases of scoliosis, lower back pain increases during pregnancy (1). You may suffer moderate to severe back pain.
- Breathing issues: In general, the growing uterus exerts pressure on the diaphragm making it difficult for the mother to breathe. You will also experience breathlessness because of the increase in progesterone hormone that raises the rate of respiration. The spinal curvature might worsen the problem (2).
- Movement: Walking would be a problem if your legs are uneven due to scoliosis (3). This might become more difficult with weight gain and changes in the center of gravity.
Also, after the delivery, the curve would worsen if you tend to hold the baby only on one side. It is good to use a body carrier to balance the infant’s weight.
Can Pregnancy Worsen Scoliosis?
Having one or two pregnancies, usually, does not worsen scoliosis. But women in their third trimester should be careful with their back since the ligaments are more relaxed due to pregnancy hormones. It could lead to an increase in Cobb angle (a measure of spinal curvature) that results in the leg, hip and back pain.
Women, who have undergone prior orthotic treatment, were observed to have an increased risk of curve progression after pregnancy (4).
Treatment Of Scoliosis During Pregnancy
Treating scoliosis during pregnancy is difficult and is usually not done. The orthopedist can help you to get relief from the pain and discomfort. Based on the factors such as the degree of the curve, pregnancy complications, and associated risks, the specialist may suggest any one or more of the following relief methods (5):
- Pain-killing medications
- Kinesiatrics – use of simulators
- Special massage
The primary objective of the above procedures is to relieve spinal pain and discomfort. Your doctor might also suggest a maternity belt.
Exercise makes you feel comfortable. It helps strengthen your back muscles. Elastic resistance exercises are the most helpful, but they should be performed only with the help of a professional.
Does Scoliosis Complicate Labor?
Women with scoliosis can carry their baby to full term and deliver normally. In the earlier times, C-section was opted (6), but later it was found that vaginal delivery is possible provided there are no other pregnancy complications.
Delivery is the same for women with or without scoliosis. However, there are a few differences:
- Those with curved hips can experience ‘stalled labor’ (labor slows down or stops from the active phase) if the baby is not positioned properly.
- They may experience difficulty in pushing the baby.
- It would be harder to receive an epidural.
Your doctor will discuss the labor and pain management options with you before the due date so that you will know what to expect.
Can Your Baby Inherit Scoliosis?
The actual cause of idiopathic scoliosis is unknown, but it is known to be hereditary. Around 30% of scoliosis patients have a family history of the condition (7). The pattern of inheritance is unclear as it involves several genetic and environmental factors. Having a close relative with AIS (adolescent idiopathic scoliosis) also raises the risk of a child inheriting the condition (8). This risk is higher in girls than in boys.
Can You Prevent Scoliosis Inheritance To Your Child During Pregnancy?
Since the cause of scoliosis is unknown, there isn’t anything you can do during pregnancy to prevent the inheritance of the condition to your child.
Next, we answer some common queries that our readers ask on scoliosis and pregnancy.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I get pregnant if I have scoliosis?
Scoliosis does not cause problems in getting pregnant (9). It does not result in infertility or increase the chance of stillbirth, birth defects or miscarriage. Women, who undergo spinal fusion surgery, also do not have any problem with the pregnancy.
2. Is it safe to take an epidural after scoliosis surgery?
In the cases of scoliosis surgery where the spinal fusion rod is used, epidural can create problems. If the rod is attached to the lower spine, it is impossible to give an epidural. Most obstetricians or gynecologists refuse to give epidurals to women with spinal fusions.
3. Does an ultrasound scan diagnose scoliosis in a fetus?
An ultrasound scan can detect congenital scoliosis (10). However, it can go undetected if the scoliosis is slight.
4. Are obstetricians and gynecologists specialized in treating scoliosis?
An Ob/Gyn does not treat scoliosis. They will refer you to orthopedists.
5. Should I go for a C-section in the case of scoliosis?
C-section is not necessary in all cases. Your doctor will decide whether to deliver the baby vaginally or through cesarean based on the severity of the curve.
6. Will a cesarean section cause scoliosis in the baby?
Sometimes, when the baby is pulled from the womb during the cesarean, the ligaments of the neck might be damaged. In such a case, there could be a risk of scoliosis. The cause referred to as birth trauma, could be difficult to detect.
7. How does congenital scoliosis affect my pregnancy?
Women with congenital scoliosis or early onset of scoliosis should check with their healthcare provider before planning to become pregnant. Congenital scoliosis is associated with neuromuscular conditions like poliomyelitis or muscular dystrophy.
There could be breathing difficulty and restriction of the lung size because of these birth defects. There is also a reduction in oxygen levels, which would harm the growing fetus, and may also cause heart strain in the mother.
8. Does thoracic scoliosis affect pregnancy?
Scoliosis that affects the middle spine is called thoracic scoliosis, and this significantly affects your breathing patterns. It adds up to the breathlessness that is quite common in pregnancy.
9. How does thoracolumbar scoliosis affect pregnancy?
Thoracolumbar scoliosis affects the lower thoracic and the lumbar spine. The spine looks like a C from the front or a reverse C from the back. Pregnancies associated with thoracolumbar scoliosis can cause cardiovascular complications (11).
Scoliosis will not affect your chances of becoming a mother or aggravate the problems during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor, get fit, and there’s nothing to stop you from becoming a mother. Scoliosis should not prevent you from enjoying the beautiful phase of pregnancy.
If you have had scoliosis during pregnancy, do share your experiences in the comments section below.
2. King TE Jr; Restrictive lung disease in pregnancy; Clin Chest Med (1992)
3. Rebecca S. Young et al.; Effect of simulating leg length inequality on pelvic torsion and trunk mobility; Elsevier Publishing Company (2000)
4. Josh E. Schroeder et al.; Does pregnancy increase curve progression in women with scoliosis treated without surgery; Evid Based Spine Care J (2011)
5. Jason R. Smith et al.; Scoliosis: A straightforward approach to diagnosis and management; CME Group
6. E. Orvomaa et al.; Pregnancy and delivery in patients operated by the Harrington method for idiopathic scoliosis; Eur Spine J (1997)
7. Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis; Scoliosis Research Society
8. Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis; Genetics Home Reference; NIH (2019)
9. Robert C. Durkin; Chapter XIX.3. Scoliosis; Case Based Pediatrics For Medical Students and Residents (2003)
10. Congenital Scoliosis; Scoliosis Association (UK)
11. Phelan JP et al.; Pregnancy complicated by thoracolumbar scoliosis; South Med J (1978)