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I like to show this list to pregnant women so they have a chance to consider the side effects of an epidural before they’re actually in labor and wanting one. When a woman is in labor and overwhelmed with pain, she is not going to care about this list, not going to read it, she’ll just scribble her name on the dotted line and yell,
I don’t care! Just stick the needle in my back.
BUT if she reads this while still pregnant, long before labor begins, she’ll have time to consider the side effects and say,
You know what, I don’t want an epidural. I don’t have to get the epidural.
These reasons are taken from the release form that a woman must sign before getting an epidural (I got this form from a local hospital.) It is titled, “Authorization for the administration of epidural/spinal analgesia for pain relief in labor and delivery.”
- The epidural/spinal may not work and give partial relief (1 in 10).
- Dural puncture headache (1 in 40)
- Backache and/or leg pain (1 in 50)
- Significant decreases in blood pressure (1 in 50)
- Total spinal anesthesia ( 1 in 500)
- Toxic reaction (1 in 500) This may include a seizure, cardiac or respiratory arrest, or rarely, the possibility of death.
- Massive epidural/ spinal anesthesia (1 in 1000)
- Transient paralysis or nerve damage (1 in 1000)
- Permanent paralysis or nerve damage (1 in 5000). Other rare complications include infection, loss of epidural catheter in the epidural space, fetal distress, bleeding, or infection at the skin, subcutaneous tissue epidural or subarachnoid spaces, and possible death.
- I also realized that during the course of my labor, my labor may either speed up, stop, or slow down, which may make it necessary to have forceps or Cesarean delivery. As this may occur during the course of any labor patient, either with or without epidural/spinal analgesia, it is difficult to determine whether or not epidural/spinal analgesia has a bearing on these outcomes. But in any once patient, this may occur as a result of epidural/spinal analgesia.
You may be asking, but how can I get through labor? How can I handle the pain? The answer is preparation. Read all you can. Consider this list of books. Take an independent childbirth class (not associated with a hospital or doctor’s office). Read the birth stories below so you can be inspired and gain the confidence to birth your baby.
- diary of a primipara
- my second labor–a lot quicker than my first
- the labor that kept on stopping–my third birth
- born in our living room-the story of my fourth birth
- 12 days overdue, but who’s counting? the diary and birth story of my fifth baby.
For an in-depth look at the effect of epidurals, read this medical paper.