You will hear both ends of the spectrum when it comes to the epidural needle for pain management during labor. Unfortunately, it is either the ‘worst’ things you can do or the ‘best’.
I won’t try to convince you what you should do, I will just share what I went through and the facts about how the epidural works and what it does as well as its risks.
What Is The Epidural?
The Epidural is anesthesia, it is the most popular method of pain relief during labor.
Are There Any Side Effects To Epidural Anesthesia?
Yes, there are multiple side effects not only for the mother but also for the infant.
So if it can cause these side effects on an adult woman you must be asking yourself:
Can An Epidural Hurt The Baby? Is Getting An Epidural Bad For My Baby?
Getting an Epidural for pain management in labor has its risks and side-effects. One possible side effect of an epidural with some babies is a struggle with “latching on” in breastfeeding.
The pain medication has also been known to cause respiratory depression and decreased fetal heart rate in newborns.
Though the medication might not harm your baby, he or she may have subtle effects in the hours after birth.
Are There Short Term or Long Term Side Effects To The Epidural?
Yes, there are both short term and long term which are:
- Low blood pressure.
- It’s normal for blood pressure to fall a little when you have an epidural,
- Loss of bladder control
- Some minor effects are headache, itchy skin, feeling sick ( nausea or vomiting).
- Inadequate pain relief; meaning the epidural did not take effect as expected and did not provide the pain relief for labor.
- Sleepiness and fatigue.
I had the epidural and perhaps it was laboring for 26 hours but once I got the medication I fell asleep and slept for 3 to 4 hours.
Which was a relief, both on my body and my mind as I was exhausted.
Another side effect of the epidural anesthesia was something I call ‘the shakes’ which is shivering-like tremor before delivery.
I went through this and it wasn’t bad; once I delivered the shivering stopped.
- Very rarely permanent nerve damage.
- Localized increase in pain.
- Severe arthritis of the hips (avascular necrosis)
- Death from complications.
Why Is It ‘Bad’ To Get An Epidural?
The most common reason for this is nerve damage. The needle used to deliver the epidural can hit a nerve, leading to temporary or permanent loss of feeling in your lower body.
Bleeding around the area of the spinal cord and using the wrong medication in the epidural can also cause nerve damage.
These side-effects are extremely rare.
Some women have discomfort in the lower back (where the catheter was inserted) for a few hours or days after the epidural, but it doesn’t last.
Note: Have in mind there is an average of 360,000 per day in the US alone. More than 60 percent of women in labor use an epidural, spinal, or combined spinal-epidural anesthesia for labor, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
The risk of being paralyzed from an epidural is 1 in 23-50,000.
Can You Die From Having An Epidural?
Technically yes, this because if you have an allergic reaction to it then there is a risk of death. The drug can also cause breathing and heart problems.
The risk of death from an epidural administration falls around 6.5 per million for the years 1997 to 2002 according to Hawkins (researcher of the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora). This was mostly related to a lack of emergency resuscitation equipment in the delivery room. (source)
Mostly due to chronic health conditions, like high blood pressure and diabetes.
Which can make women more vulnerable to childbirth complications in general.
Epidural Procedure, What Does It Consist Of?
This one I never thought of because I was adamant about having unmedicated labor and delivery.
First, once you have decided to get an epidural your nurse will send for the Anesthesiologist ( this may take a while ).
The Anesthesiologist arrives and will explain to you ALL of the side effects of the Epidural. Then she will get you to sign multiple pages saying you understand the risks and agree to get the Epidural administered.
The procedure itself is simple but while you’re in labor having contractions lasting about five minutes with less than a minute in between; it can mean the application and insertion of the catheter will take longer.
The catheter is inserted on your lower back and taped to your skin so it doesn’t move or get displaced. The needle will go in and ta da! You are good to go. Then, you will be handed a button device that connects to the machine that administers a dose of the medication.
You will get one dose every 15 to 20 minutes.
How Painful Is Childbirth With An Epidural?
It was significantly different from unmedicated labor. I had been laboring for about 26 hours when I could no longer take it and decided to get the medication.
Once they administered the catheter with the anesthesia it took maybe 15 minutes to fully kick in and when it did it was heavenly.
From my experience, it’s almost the same feeling when your legs go numb from laying on it too long. I could feel my legs and could move and lift them without difficulty but the contraction from labor where like a light electric current.
Was The Epidural Bad For My Baby?
This I do not know. As previously mentioned the Epidural may cause difficulty latching and my daughter couldn’t latch properly till 5 days later.
This may have been because of the Epidural or not. Other than that my daughter is healthy and was very alert from the moment she was born till today.
So really the Epidural was not bad for my baby.
How Was Recovery From Labor And Delivery After Having The Epidural?
Surprisingly it was swift and with only a handful of issues that resolved within a week of delivery.
The worst thing was the swelling. The Epidural causes liquid retention which in turn makes you swell like a balloon. I had no ankles, knees, or hands and fingers. I was a blob of swollen skin.
The next one was constipation, another side effect of the Epidural. It took me 48 hours after delivery to have a bowel movement with the help of stool softeners.
I hope to have received all your questions answered. If I missed anything please leave a note in the comment section below…
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Sourced and References:
Birth & Death Rates | Ecology Global Network