Side effects of epidurals

A quick search online and you will find there are many reasons to avoid an epidural in chilbirth if at all possible.

Here are a few more considerations when planning and researching your birth preferences.

Side Effects of Epidurals: on Mother

  • Severe restriction in mobility due to epidural wire in spine, partial or complete leg paralysis
  • Continuous fetal monitoring and IV in arm during labor despite frequent occurrence of either no pain relief (5%) or inadequate pain relief (10%).
  • Lowered oxytocin, endorphin and adrenalin levels in blood, which prevents the fetal ejection reflex and the ecstatic “high” feeling after birth.
  • Fentanyl itch—a common itchy red chest rash in reaction to opiates.
  • Painful wound in the back, where needle entered, lasting 1–2 days.
  • Short- or long-term generalized backache lasting weeks to months (5% chance).
  • Full-blown migraine headache following birth, lasting 1–7 days (5% chance).
  • 1 in 250,000 will be paraplegic for the rest of their lives.
  • Loss of empowering birth experience.
  • Decreased confidence in ability of body to function and ability to mother compared to empowering birth experience.
  • Remember: A woman who can sit still long enough to have an epidural inserted during labor can have a relatively painless, unmedicated birth if she were provided adequate birth support in the home setting. If and when she figures this out, she may be resentful that no one informed her of this beforehand.

Possible Epidural Side Effects on Baby

  • Frequently causes deep drop in maternal blood pressure causing fetal anoxia.
  • When maternal fever exceeds 38 degrees C (for 15% of women who received an epidural; 1% of women not receiving an epidural), neonatal seizures are more likely.
  • Epidural use makes the baby more likely to undergo neonatal sepsis evaluations and neonatal antibiotic treatment.

Possible Effects on Mother and Baby:

  • Doubles the risk of vacuum extraction and bruising to babies head and face, increasing perineal damage and risk of permanent incontinence for mother.
  • Frequently increases risk of cesarean surgery (50%) by lowering oxytocin levels, which causes a slower labor, and relaxing pelvic muscles, which causes the baby to turn posterior.
  • Lowers chance of mother successfully breastfeeding, short- and long-term.
  • Infrequently, an epidural can prevent cesarean surgery. There are two situations in which this may be the case: a woman who is in adrenalin overload, who has not been offered any pain relief other than epidural (and the adrenalin is presumably interfering with progress of dilation) gets so much relief from the epidural that her contractions actually improve without any need for augmentation. In the second situation, presume that a woman who is at 8 cm with a persistent posterior baby needs Syntocin augmentation to make her contractions stronger to help turn the baby, but she is already exhausted due to the long haul to get to 8 cm. In this case, an epidural may allow her to cope with IV Syntocin augmentation, and she will progress with stronger uterine contractions, sometimes spontaneously turning the fetus to an occiput anterior position.

Source Midwifery Today