takes special precautions to prevent
complications. Although side-effects are rare,
they occasionally include the following. Some of the
side effects may be specific to the circumstances of
your presentation. Therefore you should discuss them
with your anesthesiologists.
Shivering may occur and is a common reaction.
Sometimes it happens during labor and delivery, even if
you have not received any anesthetic medications.
Keeping you warm often helps it subside.
blood pressure: You will receive intravenous fluids
and your blood pressure will be carefully monitored and
treated. Decreases in blood pressure are expeditiously
itching during labor: This is a result of narcotics used in the epidural/spinal medications. If itching becomes bothersome, your anesthesiologist can treat it
with medications. Most women find itching to be mild.
anesthetic reaction: While local anesthetic
reactions are rare, they can be serious. Be sure to tell
your anesthesiologist if you ever had any allergic
reaction to local anesthetic medications.
problems: On rare occasions, the anesthetic
medication may affect the chest muscles and make it
harder to breathe. Oxygen can be given to relieve this
and help the breathing.
into veins: The veins located in the epidural space
become swollen during pregnancy. There is a risk that
the anesthetic medication could be injected into one of
them. To help avoid unusual reactions stemming from this,
your anesthesiologist will first administer a test dose
of medication and you may be asked if you notice any
dizziness, a funny taste, numbness of ears, dizziness or
rapid heart beat.
pain in some areas/no pain relief: Sometimes the
anesthetic does not reach an area leaving a
"spot" which is still painful. Your
anesthesiologist may change your position on the bed or withdraw the
epidural catheter to relieve the pain. Occasionally the
epidural catheter may need to be removed and reinserted
again if you do not get adequate pain relief. Your
anesthesiologist will work with you to make you
(feeling of nerve sensations): Transient
"Feeling of nerve sensations/electric shock"
(hitting your funny bone) can occur while inserting the epidural catheter as it
brushes against the nerves in the epidural
space. Although these sensations are common during
epidural injections, permanent nerve damage is extremely
pain: You may have localized back pain from the
needle insertion, which should last a day or so. On the
other hand, you may experience generalized back pain,
which is not necessarily attributable to the epidural.
Studies have shown that mothers who have natural
childbirth deliveries are as likely to experience
generalized back pain lasting a few days as those who have epidurals. It
seems that pregnancy itself can increase the incidence
of back pain because of softening of the ligaments resulting
in back strain.
There may be several reasons why you can get a headache
after labor and delivery that are unrelated to epidural
anesthesia. However, although uncommon, a headache may
develop following the epidural block procedure (<1%).
This occurs as a result of a needle hole in the sac
containing fluid (spinal fluid) during the epidural
procedure. Leakage of spinal fluid into the epidural
space may result in headache. By holding as still as
possible while the epidural needle is placed, you help
to decrease the likelihood of a headache. Usually the headache
occurs in about 24 hours following the epidural block. Typically, the
headache occurs while you sit up and relieved by
assuming lying down position. The head and neck discomfort sometimes lasting few days,
often can be reduced or eliminated by simple measures
such as lying flat, drinking fluids and taking pain
tablets. Occasionally, a patient may need additional
treatment if the headache persists, or associated with
other features such as nausea, difficulty in
seeing light, or hearing noises.
complication such as nerve damage, bleeding into the
epidural or spinal space, paralysis, and
infection are extremely rare events.
epidural anesthesia involves needle placement in the
back, there is a natural tendency to assume that any
post-delivery nerve problem is due to the epidural
anesthesia. However, the majority of nerve
problems following labor and delivery are commonly due
to the impinging of the nerves by the moving baby along
the birth canal, and rarely to regional
anesthesia. If you experience any weakness in the
legs or other nerve problems, your anesthesiologist will
help to evaluate the problem and make sure you have the
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