Here’s All That You Need To Know About The Effects Of Epidural

Here’s All That You Need To Know About The Effects Of Epidural

13 Jul 2022 | 5 min Read

Reema Shah

Author | 610 Articles

Epidural is one of the most common anaesthesia used during childbirth today. However, before deciding to go ahead with this procedure during childbirth, it is important to understand the risks, their severity and the common myths you might have heard. Before you take the step in your labour, understand everything before having any misconceptions.

What Is An Epidural?

An epidural is a common anaesthetic used to provide pain relief during labour. It is usually safe but has certain side effects. It is an injection administered on the lower back of the body during childbirth or certain surgeries. 

How and When is an Epidural Given for Labour Pain?

If a pregnant woman chooses to have an epidural, a physician anesthesiologist inserts a needle and a tiny tube known as a catheter in the lower part of the back. The needle is removed and the catheter is left in place for delivery of the medication by using the tube as needed. An epidural can be given at any time during labour by consulting with the physician. This includes the beginning, the middle or even towards the end.

Community Expert Dr Pooja Marathe says, “Epidural might make it harder for the woman to push the baby out but the anesthesiologist can adjust the medicine if this happens. This situation is very rare, but it all depends on the mother and her situation then.”

Does Epidural Hurt?

According to Community Expert Dr Pooja Marathe, “The physician anesthesiologist will numb the area where the epidural is administered, which may cause a momentary stinging or burning sensation. But because of this numbing, there is very little pain associated with an epidural injection. Instead, most patients will feel some pressure as the needle is inserted.”

7 Common Side Effects of Using an Epidural

1. Loss of Bladder Control

After an epidural, the nerves will be numb which is responsible to know when your bladder is full. The doctor may have inserted a catheter to empty your bladder. However, you will regain bladder control once the epidural wears off.

common effects of epidural on new mums
One of the common side effects of epidural during delivery is getting itchy skin after the procedure which can be provided relief by using the right medications / Credit – Pexels

2. Itchy Skin

Some of the common medications like opioids used in an epidural can make your skin itch. You can consult with your doctor to relieve the itch. Usually, a change in medication helps to relieve this symptom. 

3. Soreness

You might feel sore after your baby is born but this feeling normally lasts only for a few days. The extra weight of your belly during pregnancy puts a strain on the back which makes back pain a common side effect of pregnancy. However, it’s sometimes difficult to find out the exact cause of the soreness whether it’s the epidural or the strain because of the weight gain during pregnancy.

4. Severe Headache

In accidental cases, when the epidural needle punctures the membrane that covers the spinal cord leading to fluid leakage, it can cause a severe headache. However, as per the American Society of Anesthesiologists, this happens to only about 1 per cent of deliveries involving epidurals. The headache can be relieved with caffeine, oral pain relievers, and drinking plenty of fluids.

The doctor may perform a procedure called an epidural blood patch if the headache doesn’t improve. New mums usually get relief within two hours of getting this procedure.

labour pain and epidural procedure
Some new mums may suffer from severe headaches after the epidural procedure so drinking caffeine drinks and oral medicines can help provide relief / Credit – Canva

5. Infection

A needle is used for the epidural process and just as the case with any needle, it creates an opening in the skin which can make way for bacteria and cause infection. However, even though infection from an epidural is rare because the needle is sterilised and the mother’s skin is cleaned before it’s inserted, in some cases it may cause an infection and in even more rare cases, the infection can spread to other parts of the body too.

6. Fever

Women who get an epidural can sometimes get a fever. About 23 per cent of women who get an epidural run a fever for which the exact reason for the temperature spike is unknown.

7. Nerve Damage

According to Community Expert Dr Pooja Marathe,  the needle or epidural tube can damage nerves, but this is uncommon. Nerve damage can cause loss of feeling or movement in parts of your lower body. The most common symptom is a small, numb area with normal movement, and strength. This usually gets better after a few days or weeks, but can sometimes take months.

Epidurals are safe if advised by the doctor during childbirth. Community Dr Pooja Marathe says that it does not reach or hurt the baby. Understand the need for it by discussing it with the doctor and only then proceed.

Cover image credit – Practical Pain Management

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