Complications with Epidurals Can Lead to Birth Injuries
Learn more about the risks epidurals may pose
Approximately one out of every two pregnant women chooses to have an epidural injection in order to minimize the pain and discomfort that occurs during childbirth. This injection is used in both C-section and vaginal births, enabling the mother to remain conscious during the delivery process. When an epidural is administered properly, there is very little risk to the child and mother. However, an anesthesiologist can make an error when giving an epidural, leading to potentially serious consequences for the mother and infant.
What is an epidural?
An epidural is a localized form of anesthesia that shuts down the feeling of pain in a specific area of the body. It is administered through an injection in the lower spine resulting in pain relief to the lower portion of the body. An epidural stifles nerve impulses where the injection takes place. The result is significantly reduced pain for the mother during the labor process. It is used to help the mother relax and rest, especially during long and strenuous labors.
Anesthetics used in epidurals
The medications used in epidural injections are referred to as local anesthetics. When you receive an epidural, you still retain feeling and senses in other areas of your body. The medications most commonly used for epidurals include lidocaine, bupivacaine, and chloroprocaine.
In many cases, the above-mentioned anesthetics are used along with narcotics or opioids such as fentanyl or morphine to help create maximum pain relief and keep the local anesthetic dosage amount to a minimum.
Properly administering an epidural
Anesthesiologists are trained in how to properly administer epidurals in order to avoid causing injury to the unborn child and the mother. These professionals know how to provide safe epidurals with the right dosages, the proper monitoring and positioning of the mother, and the proper insertion of the needle to administer the anesthetic.
Types of epidurals
- Continuous epidural. This type of epidural is given repeatedly during the process of labor in order to provide continual pain relief.
- Intermittent epidural. These epidurals are administered between longer periods of time based on the level of pain the woman is experiencing. Intermittent epidurals allow the woman more mobility which can help alleviate her discomfort during the process of labor.
- Mix and match epidurals. The use of different epidurals in the form of aesthetics and analgesics give the woman flexibility in terms of pain mitigation and her ability to move. Women have different responses to pain medication and the level of pain medication provided – therefore, a particular outcome may not be absolutely certain using the mix-and-match epidural method.
- Walking epidural. The dose of medication provided with a walking epidural provides pain relief but does not eliminate all sensation in the affected area. This allows women to have freedom of movement to kneel, stand, and in certain cases walk during labor.
- Patient-controlled epidural. The mother can have control over the level of pain relief and sensation she feels through a patient-controlled epidural.
- Spinal analgesia. This involves the injection of a narcotic directly into final fluid. The effect is to mitigate labor pains but still allow the woman some freedom of movement.
- Low-dose epidurals. These low dosage narcotic or narcotic anesthetic epidurals – sometimes referred to as epi-lite – relieve pain but also allow a certain level of sensation and movement, allowing the woman to know what is happening with her body.
Epidurals provide the mother a range of benefits. They help mothers more actively participate in the birth of their babies by providing them the necessary rest and relief they need. They can make the birth a more comfortable and relaxing experience, reducing the level of irritability, exhaustion, and overall fatigue that generally accompanies labor.
The time it takes for the labor process to complete is often extended when an epidural is administered due to the fact that the procedure slows down the release of hormones that naturally stimulate the uterus during birth. An epidural can essentially stop the work of the uterus, requiring the need for a C-section, a procedure with its own potential risks to the mother and the baby.
Risk factors are present even when epidurals are administered properly. However, negligence during administration can result in preventable injuries.
Issues stemming from the proper or improper use of an epidural can range from the relatively minor to quite severe, including problems involving bladder and bowel function, sexual function and sensation, and long-term disability.
Risks to the mother with an epidural
Below is an extended list of potential risks to the mother associated with an epidural:
- Dangerous drop in blood pressure
- Breathing issues
- Leakage of spinal fluid precipitating headaches
- Dizziness and seizures
- Cardiac arrest
- Arachnoiditis – caused by inflammation resulting in damaging scar tissue. The condition can produce long-term tingling and numbness of the lower extremities and negatively affect sexual function, the bladder, and bowel.
- Allergic reaction to an epidural medication
- Spinal membrane injuries resulting in chronic back pain or permanent nerve damage
- Wrongful death
The risks accompanying an epidural can not only affect the mother, but also the infant.
Risks to the infant with an epidural
The potential risks to the unborn child with an epidural are also very real. They include:
- Infant stroke
- Coma or wrongful death
- Brain injury
- Dangerously low fetal heart rate
- Diminished health of the infant after birth
- Poor muscle tone
- Difficulty latching on during breastfeeding
- An increased lethargy of the infant causing him or her to have difficulty getting into the proper position for delivery.
- Blocking the release of hormones that assist the delivery process, necessitating forceps and vacuum extraction
Reasons why epidural injuries occur
Even an epidural administered by a medical professional can go wrong. The smallest mistake can have very serious health implications as described above. Some of the epidural mistakes and consequences that involve medical malpractice include:
- The medication elicits an allergic reaction in the mother
- An excessive amount of medication is administered
- The mother is not healthy enough to accept the medications contained in the epidural
- The injection is made in the wrong location
- The medication is given prior to adequate dilation of the cervix
- The epidural is administered without receiving consent from the mother and also without providing her with knowledge of the potential risks involved.
- Medical professionals fail to properly monitor both fetal and maternal distress during labor and childbirth
These are many of the injuries our clients’ children have sustained
Get justice for your baby’s birth injury
If your baby has suffered a birth injury, it can be devastating to you and your family. At Crandall & Pera Law, we understand the financial and emotional difficulties you may be facing right now. With birth injury cases, we charge no fee unless we make a financial recovery for you. Call us today at 877.955.0020 or send us a message through our contact form to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a compassionate and seasoned Ohio or Kentucky birth injury lawyer from our team.