Are there any side-effects of epidural anaesthesia given during labour?

Epidural anaesthesia is one of the most common forms of pain relief given to a pregnant woman during labour. Most women who give birth vaginally prefer to take an epidural to counter labour pains. This type of pain relief is a boon to many women who have low pain threshold and still want to give birth vaginally.

In an epidural, an injection is given on the mother’s spine to numb the pain while the uterus contracts and expels the baby out of the womb. Know how a spinal anaesthesia is different from epidural.

How does an epidural work?

In an epidural anaesthesia, a thick needle is placed in the spine and guided towards the epidural space. A thin tube (catheter) is passed inside the needle into the epidural space and the needle is then taken out. The catheter remains in the spine (epidural space) and is taped to the skin. Medication is then injected into the epidural catheter to numb the lower part of the body.

Since medication is not directly injected into the spinal fluid, more of it is needed to achieve numbness as compared to what would have needed with spinal anaesthesia. Full numbness is achieved within 20 minutes after injecting the epidural.

there are no side effects of epidural but remember that every medical procedure has side effects. Though minimal, here are a few side effects of epidural anaesthesia:

  1. Shortness of breath – Since your chest will be partially numb, you may feel short of breath even though you are still able to breathe. Your anaesthesia team will monitor your breathing closely and provide assistance with your breathing if necessary.
  2. Nausea – Many mothers feel nauseated and giddy with the injection of epidural. If it gets severe the doctors in the OT can give you medications to tackle this problem. If you need to the procedure for a C-section despite giving an epidural this symptom can be treated with medication during the procedure.
  3. Shivering – The combination of regional anaesthesia, intravenous fluids administered and physiologic changes occurring during the birthing process contribute to this symptom.

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