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Routine Epidural Turns Deadly

This is an article I've gotten several times through emails or my doula groups, so I thought I would pass it on and share. It's a pretty sad tale, but I think it speaks more to hospital cleanliness & care than to the actual epidural procedure. Still, given the number of folks who make such flippant comments as "There's no risks with epidurals", it pays to be aware.

Julie LeMoult's Story

Also, take a look at the following:

Epidural Risks & Side Effects

Medical Risks of Epidural Anesthesia During Childbirth

Epidurals can be a blessing for women in labor, but it always pays to review both benefits and risks in order to decide what's best for each family. The misconception that epidurals are prefectly safe needs to be addressed. It's so sad to see a momma make a comment like, "I want my epidural when I get to the parking lot of the hospital!" Or even worse, the constant "Are you ready for your epidural now?" by nurses. Taken too early in labor, epidurals can slow labor progress and lead to even more interventions. With an epidural you immediately have: continuous fetal monitoring, catheterization, IV, and you must remain in bed. All too often, it also leads to more interventions like artificial rupture of membranes (to try to 'speed up' labor if it stalls as a result of the epidural), vacuum/forceps if mother can't feel well enough to push, episiotomies, and even cesareans.

I have supported mothers who received epidurals, and it allowed a much-needed rest. They certainly have their place in the birthing room, but let's make sure that the misconceptions are banished, and that the choice is truly an informed one.



Jun. 19th, 2006 01:36 am (UTC)
I have to admit that as a doula, I'm not really familiar with the uses of epidurals outside of the labor room. But every medication has its side effects on the body. Now I'm sure things like 'fetal distress' wouldn't come into account, but it's possibly that she could experience side effects. But one of the reasons epidural use is so widespread is because the instances of such negative effects are less than other labor relief options, such as narcotics. I would imagine that, outside of labor, the dosages would also be different, and that would be something to take into account. To my knowledge, the most common side effects are headaches and partial pain relief (as in, maybe only one side going numb). If she began to experience discomfort like this, she should let the anesthesiologist know, and they could likely adjust the dosage to help.

The lucky thing about this being so common is that most anesthesiologists are well versed in epidural use. If you look at any medication, they all have a long list of possible side effects (even cough syrup & allergy meds). It's very rare that someone would experience several of them - or the worst of them. But they are required to list them no matter how rare it is. It is scary when you use any sort of medications, but as long as she communicates well with her care providers, I'm sure they'll be fine. I'm sorry that this topic was poor timing for you, and I certainly don't want anyone panicking! I suggest talking over your concerns with the anesthesiologist, and discuss starting with low dosages if she has other problems like asthma or blood pressure issues. Remember - at least in labor, epidurals are used somewhere like 70-something % of the time, and most of the time without complications.

I hope it helps your mom! They really are wonderful for pain relief, and I have seen them used plenty with no complications whatsoever. If on the off chance she does develop unwanted effects, just speak up and let the nurses know. I hope that her procedure helps with her spinal injury. I'm sorry that I don't know more on that topic, and doubly sorry for causing distress. I will be glad to see your mom healthy & without pain.