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Recovery - Returning to Normal

Recovery from a subarachnoid haemorrhage is very individual and depends on many factors, not least of which is the severity of the initial bleed and your condition on being admitted to hospital. Returning to your previous lifestyle should be done gradually. Some people make a full recovery, but others may never entirely regain their previous level of activity.


Returning to Work

You will need at least 3 months off work, often much longer. You should negotiate a phased return with your employers, starting off by not working every day or working shorter hours.


Sami (36) from Nottinghamshire, SAH August 2006 says:

I'm lucky that my husband and I own a company and I could ease myself back in gradually. I actually returned to work three weeks after because I couldn't stand the thought of being on my own. I have a bed in the office to this day that I lay down on if I feel tired.


Karen (45) from Dorset, SAH July 2005 says:

I tried to return to work 3 months post SAH. I must have been crazy, as I wasn't well enough physically or mentally. After 2 hours of hell, I left. What was I thinking of? Trying to work in front of a computer screen with double vision and telling everybody that "I was fine". I wasn't fine. I felt like a complete and utter failure that day. I went home in tears and it dawned on me that my recovery was going to be a lot longer than I thought.


Keith (46) from Hampshire, SAH August 2006 says:

I returned to work after three and a half months and for the first couple of weeks I worked shorter hours. I found it very difficult to concentrate for long periods at first and I got very tired to the point where I needed to sleep for a couple of hours when I got home. The headaches increased in both frequency and intensity. I know now that I went back to work too soon, but it felt good to get back to some sort of normality.



If you live in the UK, you are required by law to inform the DVLA of your subarachnoid haemorrhage. You should not drive until the DVLA informs you that you may continue to do so. It could be anything from 3 months to 1 year before you can drive again.


Karen (45) from Dorset, SAH July 2005 says:

When I eventually made my first car journey, I had to drive with the air conditioning blasting on my face; I needed to feel the cold, needed to feel awake. It felt so very weird and also very scary. Even my feet didn't feel as though they were part of my body. I seemed to over emphasise every movement that before the SAH, would have been so normal. I just didn't feel in control, it wasn't me in this body that I had returned home with.


Keith (46) from Hampshire, SAH August 2006 says:

I was given the all clear by the DVLA to continue driving after about 3 months, although I felt ready before this. I returned to work a few days later and found the 40 minute drive each way very challenging at first. Within 6 months, even driving long distances was no longer a problem.




You should gradually build up your activity level as you feel able. Your brain and body will tell you when they have had enough. Start by maybe going for a short walk each day and you should find it gets easier as time progresses. During the early weeks, frequent rests will be necessary when exercising.


Vic from Frimley, SAH January 2006 says:

Due to having more aneurysms and possibly Fibromuscular Dysphasia I am not supposed to exercise too much, also I am on blood pressure medication which makes me pretty lazy! If I walk fast or try to run up stairs I get exhausted very quickly so I really don't exercise that much but I do go on long walks and go swimming but I just do everything slowly!


Sarah from Wiltshire, SAH October 2004 says:

Exercise is a bit scary to start with, being able to feel your heart race and your blood pounding! But I do think that a healthy body aids recovery. I rested a phenomenal amount in the first months, but I also did little walks and bits of stretching and things, and I think it helped



Sex and Pregnancy

Women are advised to avoid pregnancy for at least 6 months. Sex, however, presents no risks.


Sami (36) from Nottinghamshire, SAH August 2006

As my SAH happened just after sex it was a traumatic thought for both me and my husband to contemplate it again. It wasn't until I saw my Neurosurgeon in November (three months after) and he gave me the all clear that we tried and even then it was very nerve racking experience. Our sex life isn't what it was before but we are working on it and we are as intimate and as close as we've always been.


Sarah from Wiltshire, SAH October 2004 says:

Sex was scary post SAH, but actually fine. I'm probably slightly less inhibited now - whether that's a survivors response, or whether the inhibiting part of my brain was affected - I don't know.




You can usually resume flying after about three months, but as individual recoveries vary so much it’s always best to check with your doctor or neurosurgeon before doing this. You may find that the pressure build up in your ears and headaches affect you more at first.


Vic from Frimley, SAH January 2006 says:

I have been given different opinions on this matter. The first was "that one should not fly" for at least 6 months’, the second "that it was fine to fly" and the third "that it was my choice and be it on my own head"! I have flown 6 times in the past year. The first time 2 weeks after my SAH, with no adverse effects so I think its fine and how soon after the SAH depends on how the individual feels.


Keith (46) from Hampshire, SAH August 2006 says:

I did a short haul flight after 6 months and although I was a bit apprehensive, I suffered no ill effects at all. I've flown a couple of times since then and everything has been fine.



Smoking and Alcohol

Smoking increases your risk of heart attack or stroke and is linked to the development of aneurysms, so if you smoke, try to give up. Your doctor can help you to do this.If you like the odd tipple, you will find that alcohol affects you more in the first few months than it used to. During the early weeks, you may find that you cannot tolerate alcohol at all.


Sami (36) from Nottinghamshire, SAH August 2006 says:

I've smoked since I was 15 and stopped after the SAH. However, I do still have the occasional cigarette when drinking or when I've had a particularly bad day. I'm desperate to kick the weed altogether and my GP is referring me to the NHS New Leaf programme.


Vic from Frimley, SAH January 2006 says:

I was a heavy smoker up to the day of my SAH. Fortunately, being in hospital for two weeks made the initial withdrawals easy! I think that quitting is very much a state of mind. I found it much easier than I thought it would be although 17 months on I still get the odd craving.


Keith (46) from Hampshire, SAH August 2006 says:

I enjoy the odd pint of beer from time to time and I tried one after about 2 months. I felt light headed and had hot flushes within a few minutes and came out in a rash. It was about 6 months before I could fully enjoy a pint of beer without those effects.


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