Epidural anesthesia is administered through a catheter in the back to provide pain relief during labor and delivery. Many women find this a less stressful way to give birth. However, some possible long-term side effects are associated with receiving an epidural. As with all invasive medical procedures, patients should be aware of the potential risks before opting for the procedure.
Spinal Headaches and Pain
Patients who receive an epidural often have headaches that can vary from mild to severe in nature. According to MayoClinic.com, this occurs during epidural administration when the postdural area is punctured and spinal fluid leaks. Headaches may persist for hours, days, weeks or in intervals. However, a spinal headache usually dissipates on its own. Patients with painful and persistent headaches should contact a doctor for medical treatment.
Postpartum Bladder Dysfunction
Medline Plus, an online resource of the National Institutes of Health, reports that some women experience urinary tract infections as a result of catheter use during the labor process. In addition, other women may experience loss of bladder control functions for an undetermined amount of time. This is due to numbed pelvic floor muscles that strain during epidural administration. Bladder symptoms usually disappear as the epidural anesthetics clears the body. Patients with continued bladder problems should contact a physician for consultation and treatment.
Hypotension is a sudden decrease in blood pressure. It is a long-term side effect associated with epidruals, reports the American Pregnancy Association. When a pregnant woman's blood pressure drops, an insufficient amount of oxygen is available to the fetus. In addition, it can cause a blood supply reduction to the placenta, which may warrant a C-section if the baby becomes distressed. After delivery, patients may continue to suffer from hypotension. Typically, doctors will prescribe medication or treatment to combat this problem.
Medline Plus states that itching sensations can occur in patients who have received an epidural. This is the body's neurological response to the numbing agents in an epidural. Although this is not a serious condition, it can be uncomfortable to patients. Itching sensations often disappear after the epidural is stopped. However, intense itching at the epidural insertion can arise long after treatment. Patients should consult a medical professional for assistance if intense itching continues.
Other Long-Term Effects
The American Pregnancy Association reports that nerve damage may occur in patients who receive an epidural. Although rare, nerve damage sometimes occurs from needle trauma, bleeding or infection. This long-term effect is evident in patients who move a considerable amount during needle administration. Spinal pain is another long-term effect in epidural patients. Since an epidural is administered in the spine and nerves are punctured, pain develops as the affected nerve areas begin the recovery phase. Patients who suffer from severe side effects should contact a doctor immediately.