Just like any decision you make that directly affectsyou and your baby, it is important to be informed as much as possible of the benefits and risks of getting an epidural during labor.
Pregnant women tend to take many precautions to avoid harmful drugs during pregnancy to keep their baby safe and healthy, and they should also take the same precautions during labor and birth.
If you decide to have an epidural during labor, you will have to sign a consent form and the doctor may or may not explain the potential risks to you. It is YOUR responsibility to know the risks involved to both you and your baby BEFORE consenting to an epidural.
What is it?
the blocking of the nerve routes from the spinal cord with a local anaestheitc and/or painkiller.
What medical substances are used in epidurals?
Epidural medications fall into a class of drugs called local anesthetics such as bupivacaine
, or lidocaine
. They are often delivered in combination with opioids or narcotics, such as fentanyl
, to decrease the required dose of local anesthetic. This way pain relief is achieved with minimal effects. These medications may be used in combination with epinephrine, fentanyl, morphine
, or clonidine
to prolong the epidural’s effect or stabilize the mother’s blood pressure.
How does it work?
it blocks the nerve roots that lead to the lower part of the body, resulting in numbness.
What are the benefits?
it numbs the lower body, providing pain relief during labor.
How is an epidural given?
an anaesthetist inserts a hollow needle into the lower spine and a small plastic tube, which is connected to an automatic pump, is put into the back through the needle. then needle is removed and local anaesthetic/pain relievers are pumped into the spine.
Risks of the Epidural to the Mother:
*Due to the nature of this procedure, the mother is not able to move about freely, which commonly inhibits the progress of labor. Side effects of this medication include uncontrollable shivering, nausea, vomiting, and itchiness.*
-there is a 1 in 20 chance of a "block failure," meaning no pain relief whatsoever.
-increased length of labor time
-drop in blood pressure (30-35%)
-bladder dysfunction due to catheter (25-34%)
-post partum back pain (10-22%)
-spinal headache (1-10%)
-increased chance of interventions such as vacuum or forceps, as well as Cesearean (because proper pushing is inhibited by the numbness. with an epidural, a mother is 4 times more likely to require a c-section.)
-increased chance of episiotomy/ tears (also because proper pushing is inhibited)
The following have been reported due to epidurals, but they are very rare:
-infection at injection site
Risks of the Epidural to the Infant:
*The opioids (medication) in the epidural DO cross the placenta and get into the baby's system. These chemicals have NOT yet been tested for safe use in infants.*
(fetal bradycardia: a baseline heartrate less than 120 beats per minute. the normal is between 120 and 160 BPM.)
(fetal tachycardia: the sustained elevation of fetal heartrate baseline of above a 160 BPM. tachycardia is a normal response to an increased need for oxygen, which can occur with maternal fever. as mentioned above, there is a 20-25% of the mother experiencing fever with an epidural.)
-short-term (up to 6 weeks) of neurobehavioral effects, such as irritability and inconsolability. long-term effects have not been studied.
-difficulty breastfeeding/ latching
-difficulty bonding with the mother
(*statistics and numbers are subject to change with time. please don't hesitate to check the sources listed below and/or research and add any new information relevant to this subject matter. this is simply an informational post recognizing the medical risks of this particular procedure when administered to a pregnant woman in labor.*)
Feel free to add any information that is relavent and may be helpful to all the mothers out there who will be giving birth soon. STAY INFORMED, ladies!!
Natural Birth Informational Sites: