Pregnancy and Chiari Malformation

Pregnancy and Chiari Malformation Syringomyelia Review of the Literature and Current Recommendations


Chiari malformation (CM) and syringomyelia are complex neurological conditions that can present unique challenges during pregnancy. This article provides a comprehensive review of the existing literature regarding the impact of pregnancy on individuals with Chiari malformation and syringomyelia, exploring potential risks, management strategies, and current recommendations for healthcare providers and patients.


Chiari malformation is a structural abnormality characterized by the displacement of cerebellar tonsils through the foramen magnum into the spinal canal, potentially causing compression of neural structures and leading to syringomyelia, a condition characterized by fluid-filled cavities within the spinal cord. The management of Chiari malformation and syringomyelia becomes even more intricate when dealing with pregnancy due to physiological changes, potential symptom exacerbation, and the need to balance maternal and fetal well-being.

Physiological Changes and Risks:

During pregnancy, various physiological changes occur, including increased blood volume, hormonal fluctuations, and changes in intracranial pressure. These changes can impact individuals with Chiari malformation and syringomyelia, potentially exacerbating symptoms such as headaches, neck pain, and sensory disturbances. Furthermore, the increased blood volume might lead to increased intracranial pressure, potentially worsening pre-existing symptoms.

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Literature Review:

Limited research exists on the specific impact of pregnancy on Chiari malformation and syringomyelia. The available literature primarily consists of case reports and small case series. Some studies suggest that pregnant individuals with Chiari malformation and syringomyelia are at a higher risk of symptom exacerbation, particularly during the second and third trimesters. Additionally, there have been reported cases of syrinx expansion during pregnancy, which may necessitate vigilant monitoring.

Management Strategies and Recommendations:

Managing Chiari malformation and syringomyelia during pregnancy requires a multidisciplinary approach involving neurologists, obstetricians, and neurosurgeons. The following recommendations may help guide the management process:

  1. Pre-Pregnancy Counseling: Individuals with Chiari malformation and syringomyelia should undergo pre-pregnancy counseling to assess the potential risks and benefits of pregnancy. This counseling should include a comprehensive neurological evaluation and discussion of potential symptom exacerbation.
  2. Close Monitoring: Pregnant individuals with Chiari malformation and syringomyelia should receive close monitoring by a multidisciplinary team. Regular neurological assessments and imaging studies can help detect any changes or worsening of symptoms.
  3. Symptom Management: Non-pharmacological interventions such as physical therapy and pain management techniques should be prioritized. If pharmacological treatment is necessary, medications should be carefully selected to minimize risks to the developing fetus.
  4. Vaginal vs. Cesarean Delivery: The mode of delivery should be individualized based on maternal and fetal considerations. Vaginal delivery is generally preferred, but a cesarean section might be indicated if there are concerns about increased intracranial pressure during labor.
  5. Postpartum Monitoring: Postpartum monitoring is essential to assess the impact of childbirth on Chiari malformation and syringomyelia symptoms. Symptoms might change during the postpartum period, necessitating ongoing medical attention.

Conclusion: Pregnancy in individuals with Chiari malformation and syringomyelia requires careful consideration and a personalized approach. While the available literature is limited, it highlights the need for multidisciplinary collaboration, close monitoring, and individualized management strategies. Further research is warranted to better understand the impact of pregnancy on these conditions and to refine clinical recommendations for the well-being of both mother and child.