Majority of women choose epidural anesthesia over other means of pain relief while going into labor. Though epidural is considered as a safer option compared to other means of alleviating the pain, it is prudent to be equipped with as much knowledge and awareness about various aspects of pregnancy to ensure that the delivery experience remains pleasant and easy to handle.
A brief understanding of the types of epidurals and their potential side effects enables an expectant mother to make an informed decision during the birth process. Epidural anesthesia is a regional form of anesthesia that numbs the senses in a particular region of the body. Instead of administering a general anesthesia which results into a total lack of feeling, epidural anesthesia is administered to assuage the pain in a particular part of the body.
Epidurals act by numbing the nerve impulses from the lower segments of the spine leading to lack of sensation in the lower half of the body. Usually drugs including bupivacaine, chloroprocaine, lidocaine, etc. are delivered in epidurals in combination with narcotics, which may include fentanyl and sufentanil, or opioids. Though epidurals have notable advantages over other pain relief medications, there is a possibility of some post-partum side effects which should not be ignored.
Vomiting and Nausea
Administering anesthesia has the adverse effect of vomiting and nausea which makes the patient uncomfortable and restless. Nonetheless, while administering epidural, this risk is minimized. Yet in some cases, expectant mothers have complained of nausea and vomiting post the administration of epidural.
Pain and Numbness In Lower Half
When epidural is inserted, it can sometimes lead to friction between the bones in the spine. This can further result in lower back pain that might last for as long as six months. Moreover once an epidural is inserted, numbness may be felt in the lower half even after the birth of the infant which necessitates walking with someone’s assistance.
Though the probability of triggering neurological dysfunctions post the administration of epidurals is rare yet it cannot be completely disregarded. The problem can be minor, like numbness in legs or major, like permanent nerve damage in the area where catheter is inserted.
Abnormal Heart Rate
Epidurals can cause the blood pressure of the mother to drop significantly which can prove disastrous not only for the expectant mother but for the baby as well. As a result, a regular monitoring of the blood pressure is carried out to ensure that the baby is getting enough supply of oxygen. Also administration of epidural can lead to abnormal fetal heart rate.
Epidural poses several potential risks to the health of the baby which include like drowsiness after birth, poor reflex and inability to suckle properly, reduced muscle strength, etc. Mothers too suffer from certain risks of administering an epidural which include shivering, headache, itching and rashes on skin, difficulty in urinating, etc.
Studies have produced ambiguous results about the potential side effects of an epidural. Nonetheless it is wise to be fully aware of the risks and side effects and make informed and conscious decisions during the birth process.