Women now have the choice to be given epidural anesthesia to help with pain during active labor. Local anesthetic will be administered into the epidural space of the spine which will be given continuously through a small catheter that is left taped to the woman’s back. It normally takes about five to thirty minutes for the effects to be felt, at which time the legs may begin to feel heavy and pain should subside. While it is generally safe for both the woman and baby when having an epidural, there are potential side effects they should be aware of.
Low blood pressure is one of the most common effects. Intravenous fluids will be administered at the same time in order to prevent this from occurring.
Another common side effect is uncontrollable shivering. However, shivering is something that can happen to a woman during labor even without receiving an epidural, so getting an warm blanket is often enough to help control the shivers.
A loss of bladder control during labor can sometimes happen requiring the woman to receive a urinary catheter.
An epidural headache may happen if the needle goes too far causing spinal fluid to leak into the epidural space. This headache can be severe and last for up to a week after delivery. There is a treatment called a “blood patch” that can effectively help which consists of injecting the woman’s blood into the epidural space to patch the hole that has been made. It should be noted though that this problem is rare, occurring in about 1 in every 200 epidurals given.
Localized ack pain can sometimes be a result of the needle insertion into the spine, but most of the time back pain after delivery is actually the result of the birthing process itself.
In truth, epidurals are generally safe and provide relief for many women who would otherwise have to endure a gruelling, painful labor. Understanding the potential side effects is important to make the most informed decision possible.