The Truth About Epidurals

What are the real risks?

Epidural anesthesia is the most common childbirth pain relief requested in the United States — it is estimated that more than 50 percent of mothers laboring in hospitals have one administered. The anesthesiologist will go through the risks of the procedure and you will need to sign a release form (as long as you haven’t already received some narcotic pain relief), but do most moms really understand the risks involved?

We asked Jaime Arruda, MD, assistant professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology at the University of Colorado about how likely it would be for a mother-to-be to experience a negative side effect from epidural administration — and her answer was very reassuring. “Very unlikely,” Dr. Arruda shared. “Most epidurals give excellent pain relief with few side effects. There is a small risk of a ‘spinal headache’ following epidural. Occasionally a mom’s blood pressure may lower right after the epidural which could require some medications or IV fluids to correct.”

That said, there are several things that can go wrong, although permanent disability and death are extremely infrequent, it is still a very remote possibility. Here is a rundown of the most common side effects.

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