Side effects of epidural
Labor, Pregnancy

Epidural during labor: Side effects of Epidural


An epidural is a type of anesthesia which is used most commonly for pain relieving during childbirth. Women used epidural as a primary method of pain relief more than any other method. Now a day’s more than 50% of women use this while giving birth at hospital. Before using any method of pain relief like epidural while childbirth, it is very important to discuss about all the side effects and risks associated so that you can make right decision.

As your due date is nearby, try to explore as much as possible about all the methods of pain relief so that you can prepare yourself for a better decision. Before choosing Epidural as an option, it’s good to be aware about the side effects, benefits and risks associated with it and how it’s administrated.

What is an Epidural

Epidural is a local anesthesia that blocks or reduce the pain in a particular area of body. Generally epidural is used as a pain reliever rather than as an anesthesia (that can cause numbness). It blocks the pain signal which results in decrease sensation in lower part of the body. You can take epidural anytime during your labor after consulting with your OB and Gynecologist.

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8 Common side effects of Epidural

Any medication that a woman uses while labor enters the child’s body also, through the umbilical cord, which includes epidural also. All the procedure including injection or painkiller carries their own risks and side effects. Epidural block also have its own side effects but most of them are temporary and risks are very rare.

Here are 7 common side effects associated with epidural.

1.    Low Blood Pressure

Low blood pressure is one of the side effect of epidural but its temporary and not harmful for the body. If your blood pressure drops very low after getting epidural, it can affect your baby’s heart rate. To prevent this and reduce the risk your doctor will give you extra fluid through IV before giving epidural injection. Your blood pressure will be checked time to time in order to avoid any complications and if necessary medications can also be given to maintain blood pressure.

2.    Back pain

Epidural injection is given in lower back of the body which can cause you a sore back or back pain as a side effect. This back pain or soreness should be resolved in few days. There are many myths about permanent back pain after epidural, which is purely a myth. There is no evidence to shows that epidural can cause permanent back pain.


3.    Numbness in legs

Some women can feel numbness in legs after receiving epidural which is not very serious and common side effects of epidural. This numbness should go particularly 6 to 8 hours and should not last very long. If it last too long, it’s better to check with your doctor as soon as possible to avoid any complications.

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4.    Fever

Epidural can cause fever in some women. According to research around 23 women in 100 that get an epidural can get a fever which is also considered as a common side effect of epidural; however the reason of this is still unknown.

5.    Itching

Opioids are a medication which is used in an epidural can caused you itchy skin as an side effect. A change in medication can work for you if you are feeling that your itching is severe and uncomfortable or your doctor can prescribe you medication to relieve the itching.

6.    Urination problem

Epidural injection used during childbirth is given in lower back to reduce the pain which decrease the sensation in lower body so that a woman will not feel the pain. A decrease sensation in lower body means decrease control of bladder. After an Epidural, the nerve is block which give you signal about full bladder, which is why women feels difficulty in urination. This is why a catheter is used when an epidural is given. Don’t worry; you will gain the control of bladder soon as the medicine worn off. This is a very common and temporary side effect of epidural.

7.    Nausea and vomiting

Some women can feel like vomiting and nauseous after receiving epidural which is generally because of low blood pressure caused by an epidural injection. You can check with your doctor if they can give you some medication to make you feel better.

8.    Dizziness and fainting

Epidural can cause dizziness or headache because of the needle affect the covering of spinal cord. This can persist for few days so it’s better to take a treatment after discussing with your doctor. Fainting is another side effect of epidural because of the decrease in heart rate and blood pressure.

7 rare side effect of epidural

While severe side effects are rare with epidural but still there is always a possibility of exceptions and some of the rare side effects with epidural are listed below.

1.    Severe headache

If the epidural injection goes too deep, it might make a hole in the protective layers around the spinal cord, and spinal fluid might leak out. If too much fluid is lost, it can cause severe headaches that may last up to a few days. According to the research this happens in about 1 out of 100 women who have an epidural. It is very necessary to treat this headache on time otherwise it can become severe also and can continue for dew days or weeks. Headache can be treated with medications and plenty of fluids.  

2.    Infection

There is always a chance of infection with the needle. However needles are always sterile and skin is cleared before giving epidural so chances of the infection from epidural are rare. Infection can be of type and generally within the body like it can occur in the area where it’s inserted, or it can affect brain or spinal cord also. 

3.    Difficulty breathing

Opioids are one of the medication which is used during epidural can cause breathing problem like difficulty breathing or slow breathing. Your doctor will monitor you time to time for any difficulties or problem and treat you according to the situation. 

4.    Nerve damage

The needle that is used to deliver epidural can damage a nerve which can cause temporary or permanent loss of sensation in your lower body. This side effect of epidural is very rare but it is very important to discuss about the symptoms with your doctor that you feel so that they can treat you according to your symptoms as soon as possible. Generally the effect of epidural worn off within 6 to 8 hour.

5.    Bleeding

In some rare cases epidural can cause damage to arteries which can cause bleeding and blood clotting within the soft tissues or epidural space. This can block the blood supply to brain or spinal cord.

6.    Seizure

Seizure means the changes in the brain’s electrical activity which includes shaking or loss of control. In rare cases epidural can trigger seizure but these kinds of side effects are very rare.

7.    Insufficient pain relief

This is also a side effect of epidural that sometime it may not block all your pain. This is one of the mostly seen side effects in women who opt for epidural. Sometime epidural is not for you and in such cases you may be offered alternative pain relief method. According to the research the average failure rate is 12% to 15%.

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