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Epidural Side Effects

Epidural Side Effects

Taking an epidural to ease the pain during labor might seem like a perfect choice. Yet it is important to know that there are certain side effects that are seen after an epidural is administered. Let us look at some of these in the following article.
Rujuta Borkar
When a woman goes through childbirth, the excruciating pain that is experienced cannot be explained in words (I shall not attempt to either). At a time when there is so much pain that you think you'll pass out and the doctor tells you that he could administer an epidural to you which will make the pain go away, I bet there will be very few women who will not jump at the opportunity. But before you think that an epidural shot is the answer to all your pregnancy problems, let me list some side effects of an epidural shot for you.
An epidural includes giving an injection of a local anesthetic into the epidural space around the places that protect the spinal cord. This numbs a woman from the waist down and blocks all sensations and movements, thus providing relief from the pain. While this may seem very tempting, there are certain side effects of an epidural that most women are not aware of and are unfortunately not made aware of either. In the following section, we will learn a little something more about these side effects.
After Birth
Interferes with Labor
An epidural will slow down the labor process and decrease the contractions of the uterus. This is because it will interfere with the oxytocin hormone that is released in the body during labor (it helps the uterus contract). When this happens, a shot of pitocin will have to be administered as well, which is a synthetic form of oxytocin. Oxytocin is the 'love hormone' and when that is affected, it will prevent the mother from bonding with the baby effectively.
Lowered Blood Pressure
An epidural will lower the blood pressure drastically in some cases. In which, case IV fluids will have to be started.
Bladder Problem
An epidural might temporarily stop the ability to control the bladder. The woman might not feel her bladder full.
Headaches
One of the major side effects of the same include headaches. This may be caused by a leakage of the spinal fluid. If the headache prolongs then a 'blood patch' is given to the patient. This is an injection containing the patient's blood that is administered in the epidural space and can relieve the headache.
Back Pain
Another major epidural side effect is back pain. This can cause severe pain, usually at the spot where the injection was given. Back pains, severe and otherwise, might last a long time after birth as well.
Effects on Baby
The baby might have problems in latching on to the nipple during breastfeeding which can lead to many problems. Other than that, studies show that during labor, babies may face respiratory depression, fetal malpositioning and an increased fetal heart rate.
Other Effects
Some other side effects include, ringing in the ears, shivering, nausea and soreness.
Long Term
  • It might lead to persistent and continuous spinal fluid leakage. This can lead to nausea, dizziness and headaches.
  • Decreased Immunity.
  • It can lead to a sudden and abnormal increase in appetite.
  • It might cause high blood sugar problems.
  • A woman will become prone to infections.
  • It might lead to stomach ulcers, cataracts and flushing.
  • It may lead to avascular necrosis. This is where the bone dies and it can happen at the hip, shoulder or knees.
  • It might aggravate diabetes in a patient already suffering from it.
  • There is a high risk that it might cause permanent nerve damage.
  • One of the other side effects include arachnoiditis. This is a very painful inflammation of the lining sac.
Having a thorough knowledge of the several epidural side effects is essential before taking one. It is clearly shown that it can have an effect on you and your baby. Always make sure you talk to your gynecologist and get a clear picture of both, the advantages and the disadvantages. Do this anytime during your last trimester. Do not wait for labor because you will not be able to make an informed decision at the last moment. All the best.