There are lots of good things to say about epidural anesthesia: It can help a mother get rid of the pain of labor contractions while staying awake and conscious about all that is going on around her during delivery. It’s much easier on a mother who had an epidural during her C-section to recover and get back in shape than a mother who had a general anesthesia. Finally, an epidural anesthesia does not affect a newborn’s breathing like other labor and delivery medications do and there’s no doubt it works well for most mothers and babies.
Yet, like any other medical intervention, epidurals have risks and side effects that are quite unknown compared to their benefits. Let us inform you of the basics:
Concerns for Mother and Labor
- An epidural may affect a labor’s duration and make it last longer.
- An epidural may increase by three fold the likelihood of severe perineal laceration.
- An epidural may increase by 2.5 times the risk of sharp expansion of the cesarean incision.
- An epidural may increase by three folds the likelihood of giving an Oxytocin injection to induce labor.
- An epidural may increase by four folds the likelihood of baby not turning upside down during the last stages of labor.
- An epidural may decrease the likelihood of having an unexpected natural birth (according to some studies).
- An epidural may increase the chances of having complications during an assisted birth when instruments like forceps are used.
- An epidural may increase the likelihood of having sexual, anal and urinary disorders after delivery.
Risks for the Baby
- Epidural analgesia can get to a baby’s bloodstream in significant quantities which can be higher than quantities found in his mother own blood.
- Epidural analgesia may last long in a baby’s body, due to the latter underdeveloped immune system and his incapacity to get rid of toxins.
- An epidural may negatively impact a newborn’s capacities because of its toxic content (according to some studies).
- An epidural may affect a baby’s immunity by stimulating his reaction towards stress.
- An epidural may reduce the level of blood and oxygen reaching the baby. This may be due to the mother’s low blood pressure.
- An epidural may cause a drop in the baby’s heart rate.
- An epidural may lead to immaturity and lack of awareness of baby’s motor skills development during the first month after birth (depending on the quantity of medication reaching his body during labor)
In addition to all these possible side effects, epidurals may affect a mother’s attempt to get closer from her child and communicate with him during the first stages after delivery, by increasing her chances of leaving the hospital earlier after birth. Epidurals may also affect breastfeeding, as studies note the decrease of breastfeeding efficiency and duration in anesthesia-exposed babies during labor, in comparison to their peers.
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