Epidurals are fast becoming the preferred option for women in labor. Most women opt for epidurals to help relieve labor pains. But a very small percentage of them are aware of the side effects of an epidural and the disadvantages that they face when they choose this option.
An epidural is administered via a catheter that has been inserted in the lower spine with the help of a needle. It delivers a local anesthesia that numbs the lower body. It needs constant monitoring.
Women who receive epidurals are generally very happy with the results as it takes away the pain of the labor, but they are usually not aware of the effect it has on them and the baby.
Even the best executed epidurals can have plenty of disadvantages. There is no mobility as the woman is always connected to a monitor and the IV. She may experience severe headaches for several weeks after delivery. There may be itching.
An epidural can lead to delayed labor which in turn can result in use of pitocin, a forceps delivery or even a caesarean. There may be a need to insert catheter for emptying the bladder. Some of the women may get a fever which would lead to increased heart beat rate for the baby resulting in intervention procedures.
In some cases the pain relief may not be sufficient or spotty, where the woman may feel pain in certain areas of the lower body and the use of pitocin can lead to fetal distress.
Episiotomies can lead to life long effects like continence and reduced sexual pleasure.
Epidurals can cause a fall in blood pressure leading to fetal problems. The after effects can disturb breast feeding thus affecting bonding with the baby.
All these can occur when the epidural goes well but in case of an allergic reaction or any other error, the results can be catastrophic.