Why Princess Eugenie's labour may have been different from other royal moms

By Suzanne Wintrob

The news Princess Eugenie "was safely delivered of a son" on Feb. 9 has brought great joy to the entire Royal Family. In Eugenie's case, that formal expression carries more weight given her medical history.

Eugenie, 30, was diagnosed with scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, when she was a child. At 12 years of age, she had corrective surgery to insert eight-inch titanium rods on both sides of her spine and one-and-a-half-inch screws at the top of her neck. While her condition presents no problems in terms of childbirth, administering anesthetic during labour and delivery – if she chose to have it – may have been problematic.

Dr. Rachel Spitzer, a general OB/GYN at Mount Sinai Hospital and associate professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Toronto, explains that one of the most common forms of pain management during labour is an epidural, whereby medication is inserted into a space in the spinal canal. While it's a routine procedure, curvature of the spine can prevent the medication from circulating properly. It's more complicated, too, when metal rods are involved.

Eugenie has a scar on her back from her operation, and her wedding dress was designed to show it in 2018. She's long spoken about her belief that scars are beautiful and show strength, and has often encouraged those who follow her on social media to share theirs with her in an effort to break stigma. Photo: © Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage

Still, notes Dr. Spitzer, Eugenie's X-ray shows her rods are closer to her neck than her waist, so administering an epidural may have been easier.

The royal first-time mom stayed in hospital for three days, and if she had a C-section, as reports have indicated, she may have received a time-limited spinal anesthetic that's inserted, in one shot, deeper into the space.

"A spinal is less affected by the surgery," Dr. Spitzer tells HELLO! Canada. "It's very unlikely to have difficulty with scarring in that space."

And if the princess worked through the pain with no help at all?

"If that were the case, having scoliosis, or a surgery for scoliosis, would have negligible impact. Neither should it impact anybody's ability to breastfeed or their immediate postpartum course."

Eugenie and her husband, Jack Brooksbank, introduced their little boy, whom they have named August Philip Hawke Brooksbank, to the world on Feb. 20. His name carries a lot of family history, since he has been named after his great-grandpa, the Duke of Edinburgh, and his "x5 grandfathers," according to Eugenie. Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's beloved husband and consort, had the middle name Augustus, while the Rev. Edward Hawke Brooksbank is one of Jack's ancestors.

This piece originally appeared in Issue 754-755 of HELLO! Canada, which is on newsstands now!

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