Potential Epidural Side Effects and Risks

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Although Most Women Have Epidurals With No Problems, There Are Some Potential Side Effects They Should Be Aware of When Choosing This As a Pain Relief Method:

  • Sometimes, an epidural can cause your blood pressure to decrease; this may occasionally cause your baby’s heart rate to slow.  To decrease this risk, you’ll be given fluids through an intravenous line before the drug is injected. Often, just changing your position is all that is necessary to improve blood pressure.
  • After delivery, your back may be sore from the injection for a few days. However, an epidural does not cause long-term back pain.
  • If the covering of the spinal cord is pierced, you can get a bad headache, but this only happens about one percent of the time.  It does not always cause a headache, but if one occurs, there are effective ways to treat it.  If it’s not treated, the headache may last for days, but this is rare.
  • If the epidural has been given for an extended period of time, or if a lot of medication is given late in labor, it may be hard to feel when to push with a contraction.  Your labor nurse can help time your efforts if you have trouble, and you should still be able to push effectively.

Serious Complications Are Very Rare:

  • If the drug enters a vein, you could get dizzy or light-headed.  In extremely rare circumstances this may cause a brief seizure.
  • If anesthetic enters your spinal fluid, it can affect your chest muscles and make it hard for you to breathe.
  • When obstetric pain management is performed by a trained anesthesiologist, serious complications such as these rarely occur and are readily managed if they should.


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