Pregnancy Concerns: Epidurals Complications

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There are many risks in the administration of anesthesia – whatever kind it may be. There may be adverse reactions because of the entry of a needle into the spinal column.

Pregnancy is usually a time where doctors are completely frank and honest with the soon-to-be mothers. Unfortunately, many doctors fail to discuss the side effects of epidurals and the administration of anesthesia during pregnancy, because of which the consent of the woman is taken without her being fully informed.

There are many risks in the administration of anesthesia – whatever kind it may be. There may be adverse reactions because of the entry of a needle into the spinal column. The medication itself may also cause side effects. Some of the complications include toxicity due to high amounts of anesthesia or a spinal block. The maternal blood pressure may drop, there may be loss of feeling and muscle weakness, nausea, shivering, itch, allergic reactions, fetal distress, headaches or any neurological injury. The biggest side effect of using epidurals however, is that the labor process slows down significantly if an epidural is administered.

Though paralysis due to administration of an epidural is very rare, (one in a million) it is still a possibility. Nerve injuries could be caused due to undue pressure while injecting the anesthesia or use of forceps. The risk of other permanent damages are about 1 in 50,000 - 100,000.

Myths about epidural

1) Epidural harms the baby - Not true. However, there may be a temporary change in the baby's heartbeat

2) Epidural increases the risk of a cesarean - Not true. It does not increase the risk of a cesarean.

3) Epidural causes long-term backache - No medical study has been able to establish a link between long-term backache and epidural. Backache is a common problem for most mums, whether they had epidural or not!

If you are keen on having a painless labour thru the administration of drugs, we recommend the Patient-controlled epidural analgesia over the normal epidural analgesia. PCEA is a new technique that allows the mother to administer additional drugs into the epidural space by the push of the button. Through this method, the mother has better control over her pain and also uses less drugs during labour. PCEA is available at KK hospital.

 

Watch a video on everything about epidural

Source: KKH Singapore
Image Source: Stills from video