Side effects from epidurals fall into two main categories: common and rare. Common side effects are rarely worrisome and include itching, fever, nausea, vomiting, soreness and difficulty urinating. A drop in blood pressure is also common, though it is rarely harmful.
Unlike the common side effects, the rarer ones can pose a significant health risk to women. It is important that you understand the risks so that you can make an informed decision before agreeing to an epidural. Healthline explains the rare side effects of epidurals.
In approximately 1% of deliveries that use epidural, the needle accidentally punctures the membrane that covers the spinal cord, which results in a fluid leak. This fluid causes severe headaches in expectant and new mothers, which are typically easily treated with plenty of fluids, oral pain relievers and caffeine.
In some cases, the anesthetic can disturb the muscles in the chest that control breathing. If this occurs, your breathing may slow, or you may develop other breathing issues.
If the pain medication gets into your veins, it may trigger seizures. This can interfere with your labor and/or ability to care for your newborn after birth.
When you create an opening in the skin, you also create the risk of infection. Though it is rare for an epidural puncture to cause an infection, it can and does happen. When it does, there is then the risk that the infection will spread to other parts of the body.
In very rare instances, the needle used to deliver the epidural hits a nerve and causes permanent or temporary loss of feeling in the lower body. In other even rarer instances, bleeding occurs around the spinal cord, or the anesthesiologist uses the wrong medication. The latter two occasions can also result in nerve damage. These side effects only affect between 1 in 4,000 and 1 in 200,000 women who receive epidural blocks.
If you experienced an adverse side effect from an epidural and developed lasting damage, you may have legal options. Understanding your legal rights can go a long way toward ensuring your future comfort.