Monday, July 28, 2008

Risks and Side Effects of Epidural Anesthesia

It always completely dumbfounds me when I hear someone say that epidurals are harmless. That if you "have" ( I'll comment on this later ) to have one, don't feel bad about it. It's no big deal. Women either don't know ( lack of education surrounding epidurals ) or don't care ( their comfort is more important than baby's safety ) about the risks and side effects of an epidural. After all, why should anyone point it out when it's not PC to do so. When you point out that it carries risk, and the motivation behind getting one is purely're being judgemental, not factual. Sorry ladies, I'm not afraid to offend with the truth.

So, let's take a look at the risks and side effects to both mom AND baby, when an epidural is used during labor. This is a summary of a very large, recent study that was done. It has several authors, and was also done by meta-analysis. The full study summary can be found at:

Risks and Side Effects of Epidural Anesthesia During Labor:

  • Limited Mobility - 100%
  • Low Blood Pressure - up to 50%
  • Fever, mom - up to 24%
  • Urinary Retention - up to 68%
  • Post Partum Urinary Incontenence - 27% with an epidural, 13% without
  • Shivering - 33%
  • Nausea - up to 30%
  • Vomiting - up to 13%
  • Itching - between 8-100% ( varying degrees )
  • Backache Immediately After Birth - 53%
  • Incomplete Pain Relief - up to 25%
  • Slower 1st Stage of Labor - up to 4.8 hours longer
  • Longer 2nd Stage ( pushing ) - up to 55 minutes longer
  • Instrumental Delivery - up to 80%. 6 out of 9 studies indicate that less than 50% of women with an epidural had a spontanious vaginal delivery.
  • Fever in the baby ( that result in a sepsis work up ) - 30%
  • Fetal Distress - 10-15%
  • Malpositioned Baby - up to 26%
  • Lower Apgar Scores- up to 17%
  • Baby Having to Endure Sepsis Work Up ( which includes spinal tap ) - up to 34%
  • Baby Being Treated with Antibiotics - up to 15%
  • Effects on Breastfeeding - Women who used epidurals were less likely to still be breastfeeding at 6 months. ( 30% vs. 50% )
  • Cesarean - 2-3 times as likely with an epidural.

THESE are the reasons that I'm against epidurals. Again, the reasons behind getting an epidural are purely selfish. And why would you put your baby through these risks, just to escape the pain of labor, that only lasts a very short while in the grand scheme of things? God designed childbirth to be so very perfect. After birth, we have the highest amount of endorphins released at one point...unless there have been artificial chemicals added to the body. So we totally miss out on God's fullest blessing in birth, by numbing for labor.

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