What are the risks of an epidural?

You want to have the best birthing experience possible, and there are many options that your North Carolina doctor should discuss with you to ensure that you and your baby are safe during labor and delivery. According to the American Pregnancy Association, one of the most common choices for pain relief in hospital births is epidural anesthesia

The combination of drugs that are given vary, but typically they include a local anesthetic and an opioid or narcotic. These are administered through a catheter, which is placed through a needle inserted in your lower back. There is a minimal risk that this will cause a spinal fluid leak, but if you are one of the less than 1 percent of women who suffer this side effect, you may get a severe headache. The doctor may be able to relieve this pain by injecting blood into the epidural’s location. Even more rarely, the insertion of the catheter causes nerve damage, which can be permanent.

Some women experience a dangerous drop in blood pressure, but your doctor should monitor this continuously so that he or she can treat it quickly. This typically involves administering medication, oxygen or IV fluids. Other possible side effects include soreness in the epidural site, backache, nausea, shivering and ringing of the ears. You may also have difficulty urinating.

Your doctor should explain to you that sometimes epidurals make pushing difficult. If you are unable to push, the doctor may have to use forceps or vacuum extraction to move your baby through the birth canal. In some cases, women need C-sections. Asking your doctor about which of these techniques he or she prefers and what the risks are for each is important when you are discussing your birth plan.

This information is provided for educational purposes only. It should not be interpreted as medical or legal advice.

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