Most women choose some type of pain medication during labor to help provide relief. There are a few different options including spinal blocks, opiates (i.e. morphine or demerol), and the top choice — epidural blocks.
Epidurals and spinals are generally very safe and effective methods of managing pain, but there are some possible risks that you should be aware of:
1. Low or sudden drop in blood pressure
Some women experience low blood pressure when getting an epidural, or their blood pressure suddenly plummets after being given a spinal. This side effect only happens in about 14% of women and it’s generally resolved quickly. The change in blood pressure can also bring with it nausea and dizziness.
2. Spinal headaches
If the spinal fluid leaks too much while the epidural catheter is in, it can cause severe headaches called spinal headaches. This side effect is very rare, but it can be treated by injecting a little bit of your own blood into the hole where the epidural was placed.
3. Drop in baby’s heart rate
A baby’s heart rate can drop due to the mother’s drop in blood pressure or if labor is prolonged and difficult, causing the baby to become distressed. Usually, it’s a very short episode and the heart rate returns to normal, but there are times that an emergency C-section is required.
4. Labor slowed or stalled
Because an epidural block leaves you confined to one spot, it can slow or stall labor. In order to avoid this, we recommend that laboring women continue to change positions while in bed to keep things moving.
More often than not, all four of these risks of medicated birth can be corrected quickly by the OB or anesthesiologist. Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks between medicated vs. natural birth to make the right choice for you.
If you have any questions or concerns about epidurals, spinals or other pain medications for labor, make an appointment with one of our experienced Florida OB/GYNs today at our Gainesville or Lake City offices.