Getting Lumbar Puncture during Pregnancy: Is It Safe or Not?

Is Performing Lumbar Puncture (Spinal Tap) During Pregnancy Safe?

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Rima Sonpal (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

Pregnancy is a crucial period that requires you to take care of yourself more than ever. Sometimes, certain issues with your health may lead you to get your cerebrospinal fluid checked. A procedure called a lumbar puncture, or, more aptly, a spinal tap is used for diagnosing problems of the central nervous system.

But, the question is, whether it is safe to conduct this procedure during your pregnancy. Read on to find the perceptions and reality behind the same.

What Is a Lumbar Puncture?

Lumbar puncture is a medical practice that involves the insertion of a needle into the spinal canal of a person, so as to pull out some cerebrospinal fluid, a colourless fluid surrounding the spinal cord and brain, for further diagnosing. If any individual has a health issue pertaining to the spinal cord or the brain, this puncture procedure can help detect it.

Diseases that can be detected with this lumbar puncture include meningitis or a haemorrhage. Generally, this test is conducted under local anaesthesia, and a hypodermic needle is used to collect the specimen. Once this is done, it is sent for further analysis.

Can You Perform Spinal Tap During Pregnancy?

When concerned about whether it is safe to conduct spinal tap during pregnancy, steering clear of every doubt becomes important. Yes, it is safe to conduct a spinal tap procedure when pregnant. The spinal fluid is not influenced by your pregnancy in any manner. None of the trimesters of the pregnancy can pose any risk when performing a lumbar puncture. Another thing to keep in mind is that this procedure would also not pose any risk to your unborn.

Benefits of Lumbar Puncture in Pregnancy

The major benefits of opting for lumbar puncture in pregnancy are present in many ways:

  • If you experience severe headaches when pregnant, the cause of them can be detected using a spinal tap procedure.
  • Frequent and unexplained occurrences of seizures, epilepsy, and more can be detected through a lumbar puncture.
  • Pressure may sometimes build up within the skull, which may further spread up to the brain tissue and also in the cerebrospinal fluid. This condition called intracranial pressure can be detected via a lumbar puncture.
  • An infection, whether in the cerebrospinal fluid or the brain’s lining, can be detected with the help of lumbar puncture.
  • A disease called Guillain-Barre Syndrome can be detected when you undergo a lumbar puncture. In this type of disease, the immune system may attack your nerves that may damage the myelin insulation in turn.
  • A subarachnoid haemorrhage is a condition where the blood vessels inside or around the brain get damaged. When a spinal tap is conducted, the diagnosis of this condition becomes simpler.
  • The impairment of the spinal cord, the brain, or even the nerves leads to weakness and may also result in paresis (partial paralysis). A lumbar puncture can help detect it.
  • The greatest advantage of a lumbar puncture is an infusion of spinal anaesthetic in the lower portion of the body, where you do not even require any sort of general anaesthesia.

How Is Lumbar Puncture Performed?

Usually undertaken at a hospital, the basic procedure of a lumbar puncture involves the following steps:

  • The doctor would tell you to lie on one side on the table in a posture where your legs are all curled up, and the chin tucked in. This is done so as to separate the bones and the spinal area, which eases the insertion of the needle.
  • An antiseptic is next applied at the base of the spinal area, followed by anaesthesia in order to make the region numb.

Collecting spinal fluid through Lumbar Puncture

  • Next, a specialized spinal needle is inserted in-between the bones and over the spinal area. The needle penetrates the spinal canal where the membrane that contains the cerebrospinal fluid is targeted.
  • Once the fluid is collected, the sample is stored in the container and sent for testing.
  • The area where the needle is applied is then covered up with the help of a small plaster.

Post-Lumbar Puncture Treatments While Pregnant

The possible treatments for post-lumbar puncture treatments involve:

1. Rest

Generally, your head or the back would ache after going through a lumbar puncture. Resting and relaxing are the key. Any side effects can be kept at bay with the help of proper rest.

2. Medication

Proper medications are another way by which you can treat the pain that you may be going through, post a lumbar puncture procedure. However, you need to consult your doctor before taking any medicine.

Whether you are pregnant or not, a lumbar procedure can help you detect a health issue that may have been bothering you for a while. Early detection can further help in treating the problem in a timely manner, so that you stay healthy and can live a blissful life with your healthy newborn.

Also Read: Back Pain During Pregnancy 

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