An epidural is a type of anaesthesia that is commonly used during childbirth to provide pain relief to the mother. It is administered by an anaesthesiologist who injects medication into the epidural space, which is located just outside the spinal cord. The anaesthesia creates a band of numbness from your bellybutton to your upper legs. It allows you to be awake and alert throughout labor.
Can epidurals harm the baby?
The amount of medication that reaches the baby from the epidural is very small, and there is no evidence that it causes any harm.
While epidurals are generally considered safe and effective, they do carry some potential side effects and risks. Here are some of the most common side effects associated with epidurals –
Side effects of epidural on mother –
- Low blood pressure – One of the most common side effects of an epidural is a drop in blood pressure. This can happen because the medication used in the epidural can relax blood vessels, which can cause blood pressure to decrease. In some cases, low blood pressure can lead to dizziness, nausea, or even fainting
- Headache – Another potential side effect of an epidural is a headache, which is usually caused by leakage of spinal fluid from the puncture site. This is called a spinal headache and can be treated with medication or a procedure called a blood patch, in which the anaesthesiologist injects the mother’s own blood into the epidural space to seal the puncture
- Itching – Some women may experience itching in the skin after an epidural, which is usually caused by the narcotic medication used in the epidural. This side effect is usually mild and can be treated with medication.
- Difficulty urinating – An epidural can also cause difficulty urinating in some women, which is usually temporary and can be managed by catheterization
- Sore back – Your lower back may be sore where the needle was inserted to deliver the medication. This soreness should last no more than a few days. There is no evidence that an epidural can cause permanent back pain.
- Reduced mobility – An epidural can reduce the mother’s mobility during labor and delivery, which can make it more difficult to push during delivery. This can sometimes lead to the need for assisted delivery with forceps or vacuum.
It is important to note that while epidurals can provide effective pain relief during labor and delivery, they are not suitable for everyone. Women with certain medical conditions, such as bleeding disorders or spinal abnormalities, may not be candidates for an epidural. Additionally, some women may prefer alternative pain relief methods, such as breathing techniques, massage, or hydrotherapy. You should discuss your options with your doctor and make an informed decision based on your individual needs and preferences