It is horrible to discover that one of the most trusted forms of pain relief administered to women during childbirth might also cause them to suffer long term injury, and even for a baby to be harmed as well. The epidural is the most popular form of pain relief (anesthesia) in the medical world and yet it is not risk free.
What Is an Epidural?
The term epidural actually describes a host of different medications administered into the spine, and it is actually used for more than just childbirth and delivery. The technical facts about epidurals make it easier to understand them in general. For instance, they are analgesics meant to reduce pain, rather than eliminate all feeling. Epidurals can do this by blocking nerve impulses in the area around the lower spine.
This is why it is such a great way to reduce the pain of childbirth because the epidural can actually decrease most of the sensation in the bottom half of the body.
When administered to a woman in childbirth, it is often done only after the cervix has dilated to four centimeters. By that time, many women are more than ready for the discomfort to be relieved. This is why even the most needle-phobic are willing to have the unique catheter inserted into the spinal cord area for the remainder of delivery.
Through this catheter, a variety of anesthetics may be used, and are often blended with medications meant to reduce pain further. For example, narcotic medications may be mixed with the anesthetics to give optimal pain relief.
What Are the Risks?
The option of giving birth to a baby while completely awake and without pain is an incredibly appealing option for many future mothers. However, as already indicated, the use of epidurals is never without risk. While some of the risks are unavoidable, there are times when negligence and carelessness lead to entirely preventable injury to the mother or baby.
Babies who suffer birth injuries from epidurals may experience the following results:
- Brain damage
- Infant stroke
- Oxygen deprivation that leads to brain damage or disorders like cerebral palsy
- Poor muscle tone
- Difficulty with breastfeeding
Mothers who suffer epidural birth injuries may experience such problems as:
- Spinal injury, including arachnoiditis
- Nerve damage
- Respiratory trouble
- Low blood pressure
Because of the effects of the epidural, a mother might also be forced to accept the use of forceps or vacuum extraction during her baby’s delivery. This can lead to a list of different birth injuries as well, and even some health problems with the mother.
How Epidural Birth Injuries Actually Happen
How can so many possible problems come from the use of an effective and safe method of pain relief? The answer usually, and sadly, boils down to medical malpractice. It takes a skilled and properly trained anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist to safely perform an epidural. Even if they are qualified they can still make a mistake that can have horrific implications.
Should you or your baby have been harmed by epidural birth injuries, it is of the utmost importance to contact an experienced birth injury lawyer. They will understand the complexities of your situation and help you begin to make a claim of medical malpractice that will help you with medical expenses and suffering that was totally avoidable
- AmericanPregnancy.org. Epidural Anesthesia. 2015. http://americanpregnancy.org/labor-and-birth/epidural/