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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 04:28 pm (UTC)
Last year, when the first round of intractable headaches started, I had a neurologist tell me she thought I had pseudotumorcerebri -- basically, a fake tumor on my brain that makes me produce too much spinal fluid and makes the occular nerve swell, increasing pressure behind the eyes and making bad headaches. She thought this because I had bad headaches with a clear MRI & C-T, and I was over-weight. Next move? Spinal tap. They couldn't get ENOUGH fluid out of me -- it was not a case of having *too much* -- and I spent the next two days with a "spinal headache" that was 10 times worse than the headache I originally went in for. The pain was so bad I can feel remnants of it while I write about it. Turns out, the spinal tap hadn't healed properly and I'd been left leaking spinal fluid for two days, decreasing the fluid that my BRAIN is resting in. So, I had to go in and have a blood patch done. They took blood from my arm and injected it into my spine -- it was the same thing as an epidural (exact same place) only it was blood, not drugs. The point was for the blood to sit there and clot, which it did, forming a patch that would keep the fluid from leaking out anymore. They filled me with various fluids while I waited and gave me lots of TLC.

What was funny was they were so impressed with how well I took the epidural -- I breathed out while the needle went in, didn't clench, etc. -- and the anesthesiologist said, "See, you're all ready for childbirth!" I said, "Yes, I'm all ready for childbirth but not because I can take a needle in my spine. This is the last needle I'll ever have in my back. I'm all ready for childbirth because I know what kinds of choices I want to make to have a natural birth -- not because I can handle anesthesia."
Jun. 19th, 2006 05:08 pm (UTC)
By the way, as a doula, I'll support any woman who chooses to have an epidural, too -- and I firmly believe they can be helpful if they are needed. And I'm not being all, "My choice is the right one" blah blah blah. I just know I could never let them come near my back with a needle again. Nothing larger than an acupuncture one, that is. Couldn't do it. My comment was more about the fact that they assumed that the fact that I could be still for a needle means I'm ready for birth -- like that's all it is, you know?
Jun. 19th, 2006 08:48 pm (UTC)
I understand exactly! And, while I hate what a mess that spinal was for you, I couldn't help but cheer at your response! lol I wish I could have seen the look on his face. As a doula, I'll always support a woman in her choices - no matter what I would choose for myself.
Jun. 19th, 2006 09:01 pm (UTC)
*her* face. :)
Jun. 19th, 2006 09:04 pm (UTC)
Oh, that hurts even worse....