Epidural Side Effects for the Laboring Patient

| January 31, 2013 | 52 Comments

Updated: July 29, 2016

Getting an epidural but curious about potential epidural side effects? Your answers are here.

Epidural Side Effects and Risks

First things first. Opponents of labor epidurals often point to a laundry list of potential side effects that can occur. And I would completely agree with these opponents that any time a medical procedure is utilized, risks are present. But they rarely occur.

To add fuel to the fire, there are potential risks even if an epidural isn’t placed. More on this later……

What your anesthesiologist is there to do is to help you decide whether the benefits of an epidural outweigh any potential risks. And this is precisely what this post is about. We want you to be an informed consumer.

Now onto the potential laundry list.

The first risk with epidurals that I usually mention is that the epidural may not work. Or, it may work but not in the way you and your anesthesiologist would like. This includes “patchy” epidurals that seem to work in some areas of your body, but not others. Also rare are “one sided” epidurals. This is obviously not desirable and not part of the plan, but it can happen (rarely). Your anesthesiologist will troubleshoot the epidural, and if its function can’t be improved, he/she may offer to replace it.

Next, a decrease in blood pressure can occur. This decrease is usually not to a level that will affect the well being of the laboring mom or the baby. In order to be vigilant, however, anesthesiologists monitor your blood pressure and heart rate throughout the placement of an epidural and at regular intervals when the epidural medicine is infusing.

Medicines infused into the epidural space can cause itching. Usually this is due to the opioid medicine (ie. narcotics) in the epidural solution. These small doses of opioids (eg. fentanyl) work synergistically with the low dose local anesthetic medicine. There are anti-itching medicines that can be given to help alleviate this problem. In addition, the opioid medicine can be removed altogether from the epidural solution. However, in some patients, the itching will continue.

Opioid medicines in the epidural space can also cause nausea and vomiting, difficulty urinating, low blood pressure, and breathing difficulties in the mother. Most women experience very little, if any, problems with these side effects. But they do exist. Your blood oxygen level is monitored constantly while your epidural is in place.

There is also the rare possibility of a “high block.” This means that the epidural medicine makes you too numb, perhaps up to the level of your hands and fingers. In worst cases, the medicine goes into the spinal space and can cause a total spinal.

A total spinal means your entire body is numb and you cannot breathe. This is very rare and if it even begins to occur, your anesthesiologist will be there to respond. You will be given sedating medicine and your breathing will be supported until the spinal medicine wears off.

Some patients may get a headache after epidural placement. The incidence of this type of headache is about 1%. These headaches can range from mild to severe. They are known as post dural puncture headaches, or as spinal headache. One distinguishing feature of this headache is that it is typically worse when standing or sitting, but goes away when laying flat.

If it is this type of headache, it can resolve on its own without treatment. Sometimes, drinking fluids and caffeine will help. Other times, oral pain medications relieve the headache. And sometimes, an epidural blood patch is performed to help resolve the pain. This is a procedure done by anesthesiologists.

An epidural blood patch involves the same process as an epidural for labor. There is an added step, though, in which blood is removed from an iv and then placed into the epidural space. Many times, a blood patch can instantly stop a post dural puncture headache. But there is also the chance that this procedure may not work as well.

If the headache continues for over a week after epidural placement, this is rare. It may be a sign that the headache has an additional causative factor or is not a post dural puncture headache at all.

This is not to downplay your discomfort by any means, but may be a sign that other diagnostic tests are in order. Also, a neurologist can be consulted. These physicians are experts in the causes and treatment of headaches.

If the epidural catheter starts to travel into a blood vessel inadvertently, the local anesthetic medicine in the epidural can cause toxicity in your body. In the worst case scenario, a large dose of the local anesthetic in your bloodstream can cause your heart to stop.

But this is why we use low concentrations of local anesthetic and why we give incremental doses of epidural medicine prior to starting the infusion. We are testing for “intravascular placement.” And even a properly functioning epidural has a risk of migration into a blood vessel at any time, so we are monitoring you for any feeling out of the ordinary.

The most feared side effect of epidurals is of permanent nerve damage. Fortunately, this is a very rare complication. Several studies have quoted the risk of permanent nerve damage after epidural placement, but the exact risk is difficult to pin down. This is because it is such a rare complication.

Labor epidurals are placed below the level of the spinal cord so as to avoid interfering with the cord. However, nerve roots exit the spine at many levels and these could theoretically be damaged during epidural placement. But that is precisely why you remain awake during your epidural placement, to allow you to tell us if something doesn’t feel right. This may be a sign that the needle needs to be redirected.

Another very rare risk of epidurals is the development of an epidural hematoma. This can potentially occur if you have a bleeding disorder or you have taken blood thinning medicines. In this case, even the tiniest of blood vessels in your back can have trouble clotting. And if a vessel is pierced and the bleeding is around or in the epidural space, an epidural hematoma can occur.

Without the emergent treatment from a neurosurgeon to drain the blood from the epidural space, an epidural hematoma can cause permanent nerve damage. This is why anesthesiologists are very keen on getting a detailed history about you prior to epidural placement. As with other potential risks, we take this one very seriously.

 

Contradindications to epidural placement

There are times when an epidural is contraindicated. If a patient is actively bleeding or if their vital signs are unstable, an epidural is usually out of the picture. This is because epidural placement in these scenarios may cause an even more unsafe drop in blood pressure.

If a patient has a bleeding disorder or inability to clot blood effectively, epidural placement is contraindicated.

A severe infection in the bloodstream (sepsis) or at the site of potential insertion of the epidural is of concern. Some neurologic disorders make epidurals contraindicated.

Finally, technical difficulties in the actual placement of the epidural and patient refusal are two other contraindications.

 

What I tell my wife about epidurals

When a labor epidural works great, it is a beautiful thing. And we all have friends and family members who swear by epidurals. They can allow for a virtually pain-free labor and delivery, so that the mom can really focus on the joy of delivering a baby.

And usually epidurals do work really well.

But sometimes they don’t work and sometimes they can have have side effects. The most common side effects we see (itching, low blood pressure) can be treated and are usually minor. On the other hand, there are serious risks, but they are very rare.

So I tell her that the potential benefits of an epidural far outweighs the risks (in a healthy patient with no contraindications). And if something out of the ordinary begins to occur, an anesthesiologist will be there right away to help out.

But in the end, I know the decision is completely up to her. And she may decide to go one way at first and end up with another decision after awhile. The goal is to have a safe labor and of course have a happy mom when it is all said and done.

Have you had a labor epidural before? Did you experience any side effects? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below or by visiting the forum.

Or for the most definitive answers, check out our Epidural Blueprint ebook for your Kindle here!

Epidural Blueprint

Stay healthy!

Tags: , , ,

Category: Anesthesia Medicines, Anesthesia Topics, Anesthesiologist, Obstetric Anesthesia, Regional Anesthesia

Comments (52)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. hsmom says:

    I had an epidural with the birth of my son 11 years ago. I hadn’t planned on it but I was induced with Pitocin and the pain level ramped up quickly to an unbelievable level. I experienced only two side effects: A few minutes of shivering after the epidural catheter was placed and a marriage proposal to my embarrassed anesthesiologist because I was so happy to be out of pain.

  2. Bethany says:

    My experience with the epidural was AWFUL! Everything you mentioned to be RARE happened to me. I don’t think them to be rare at all. First of all, the anesthesiologist went, “whoops” and just did the Epidural entirely on my left side. My right wasn’t numbed. He had to put the needle in a second time. Keep in mind that these needles DID NOT go low, he put them 1/3-1/2 of the way up my back. The left side numbness went away after a few hours and I felt the entire labor in my left side. THAT SUCKED. I begged for more juice FOR 5 1/2 hours… screaming for more, every minute. My daughter was sunny side up at 8 lbs 14 oz and 6 weeks overdue. She was 22 3/4 inches long. One big baby. Anyway, at one point after they injected epidural meds into my IV <–YES, IV, my left side started to burn profusely. I wanted to die. The pain was likely comparable to being SHOT. I felt like someone was taking a lighter and running it up and down the entire left side of my body. When everything was all said and done my daughter was born 64 hours after labor started.. vaginally, so I am proud. Anyway… it has been two years and from about 1/3-1/2 down my back all the way up to my head on the back of my body, I have nerve damage. I never went to a doctor about it, I figured over time it would get better. I don't have money to blow and can't afford to pay doctors who won't help. My back gets numb and tingly and sometimes I can't feel it at all. It SUCKS. This was never an issue before childbirth. I am sure it was from the epidural. The numbness and tingly feeling was there when I had the epiduralS.

    • Dr Dave says:

      Bethany,

      I am sorry to hear you had such a bad experience with an epidural and that you had such a difficult labor.

      Unfortunately, epidurals can be one-sided sometimes. This does not happen often, but it can occur. There are several things an anesthesiologist can do to try to improve it, but if those measures fail he/she can offer to replace it. And there’s no guarantee that replacing it will result in a bilateral epidural.

      There may be anatomical reasons, sometimes, for the epidural to be one-sided.

      I am not sure how getting epidural medicine in your IV would cause the left side of your body to experience that burning pain. That medicine in your IV gets returned to the heart and then gets pumped through your entire body.

      Maybe there was something else going on there.

      A 64 hour labor indeed sounds like quite the ordeal. And dealing with a large, overdue baby for all that time! That sounds like a very painful experience.

      Imagine going through that experience without any kind of anesthesia.

      I am sorry to hear that you still have back problems following your labor. Your experience seems quite unique to me; not typical of most labors. And though I’m sure it doesn’t make you feel any better, nerve damage from epidurals and spinals is very rare.

      Keep in mind that the epidural may not be the only possible reason for your back issues following labor and delivery. You had a very difficult and prolonged labor. And you passed a very large baby through your pelvis. The passing of a large baby through the pelvis, no doubt, causes stretching and sometimes tearing of tissues and possibly nerves. And sometimes the stress that is put on the legs and hips from the positions required to “push” can also have side effects (especially in difficult labors).

      In the end, I’m so sorry you had such a traumatic experience with epidurals. Most anesthesiologists that perform epidurals and spinals in obstetric anesthesia look forward to helping moms safely get through the labor experience with as little pain as possible.

      My hope is that the lingering effects from your traumatic labor go completely away with time.

      Dr. Dave

  3. I had an epidural 7 yrs ago for a ceserean with my son.Got a burning sensation in my left side,never with my other babies,now walk with a permanant limp,numbness left side whole bodytold i have fibromyalgia.i dont believe.take permanant diclefenac and antidepressants.In regular pain.im 45 now.

    • Collette,

      Thanks for leaving your comment. Sounds like you are having a really tough time.

      It is likely that you have had many tests and seen many doctors over the past few years. And I know the pains of fibromyalgia because I have a family member who has been treated for fibromyalgia for many years.

      It is very rare for someone to have permanent nerve damage related to labor epidural placement. Were you able to speak with your anesthesiologist after your delivery 7 years ago?

      • Lorena says:

        I also seem to have gotten fibromyalgia after birth and no signs of it before. Can an they epidural cause fibromyalgia? I too had to have two injections.

        • David Draghinas says:

          Hi Lorena,

          There is much we still do not understand about fibromyalgia. And I am not aware of any direct link between epidurals and fibromyalgia.

          Here are a few things that can possibly be linked to fibromyalgia, however:
          1. Physical & Emotional stressors
          Childbirth can be a very stressful event
          2. Sleep Disorders
          Again, I know from personal experience that a newborn in the home (although an awesome addition to the family) will definitely alter sleep patterns.
          3. There may be a genetic predisposition to fibromyalgia.

          This list is not complete, but it does show how an event such as childbirth could possibly be linked to fibromyalgia.

          Dr. Dave

  4. Brianna says:

    I had 4 epidurals and with my last one it was AWFUL!!! He pushed it in to far and my eyes went to twitching uncontrollably I could stand having the lights in my eyes my head went to uncontrollably jerking and one if the nurses on call tried to say I had turrets when my nurse came in and told her that I didn’t they started calling for the doctors to come in.. It scared me to death my Bp dropped i started getting sick and I was so scared I started to cry because I didn’t know what was going on and never had it happen before. If this was my first child I’d never had another one! It took all the happiness out of the delivery and I was ready to get it over with! And to this day I still have problems with my back.

    • David Draghinas says:

      Brianna,

      I am so sorry to hear about your terrible experience.

      Usually, epidurals are very safe for most healthy people. Rarely, a side effect or complication can occur. I am sorry you had one of these bad experiences.

      Were your first three epidural experiences positive? Were you given more of an explanation as to what went wrong this last time? Since you’ve had multiple experiences with epidurals, your sharing can be very valuable for our community here.

      Thank you for sharing,

      Dr. Dave

  5. Marie says:

    I had an epidural with my son’s birth eight months ago. He was two weeks past my EDD, so my OB induced. The induction didn’t work, so I ended up with a c-section. When the doctor first inserted the epidural needle, I felt a sensation down the right side of my back, so he reinserted the needle in another position. My right leg was completely numb for a while, but my left leg felt fairly normal. The nurse kept telling me that I wasn’t supposed to feel really numb, that the epidural was just to “take the edge off.” But I can’t imagine having to go through active labor and delivery like that. It was as if I didn’t have anything at all. By the time I went for the section, my right leg had started to feel more normal again. When they started the surgery, I could feel the incision, so they had to increase the medication. I don’t know what they did, but I was so out of it during the surgery that I was hallucinating. I have very little memory of my son’s birth.
    During the recovery, I kept feeling like I was going too deeply asleep, as if I was passing out, and kept jarring awake. They frequently checked my oxygen levels and kept making me take lots of deep breaths because my levels were too low. Nobody ever explained why this was happening.
    Since my son was born, I have had unusual sensations and I wonder if they could be related to the epidural. Occasionally, my whole body will tremble. The first time it happened, I was asleep and I thought the bed was moving because of an earthquake! When I woke up and realized that I was the only thing shaking, it really freaked me out. This has happened several times, but never happened before I had my son. I also have a very restless feeling in my legs frequently and occasionally in my arms. Both of these keep me up at night at times and neither of these existed before. I also have had several episodes where I awake from sleep in the midst of a kind of panic that leaves me nauseous and with a severe headache for several hours. This never happened to me before either. When I mentioned these symptoms to my OB, she looked at me like she was a bit confused, then shrugged and smiled and went on to something else.
    So, I have no idea what could be causing these things. I wonder if the epidural created some kind of weird nerve issues or if I am having some kind of rare reaction to the narcotics. I would think a narcotic reaction would have worn off by now. Maybe they gave me some other kind of medication during the surgery that is causing this. I asked my OB and she said she wasn’t sure what I got and would have to check with the hospital, which she never did! If you have any ideas what might be going on, or suggestions of what kind of doctor to see, I would be thrilled to hear them. Thanks for reading.

    • Marie,

      Thanks for your question and I am sorry it has taken a few days to respond. First of all, congrats on making it through such a difficult labor and delivery.

      I will try to piece the puzzle together for you based on the information you provided.

      When you felt the sensation down your right leg, this signifies that the needle needed to be moved a bit. This is not uncommon and it sounds like the epidural placement went well after that.

      Sometimes epidurals don’t work at all and sometimes they only work on one side (which yours did). This is uncommon but can happen. Most of the time, we have time to replace the epidural or try some techniques to get the epidural medicine to work properly.

      When you had to go for a c-section, the anesthesiologist attempted to use your epidural for the anesthesia. We do this all of the time and this is one of the benefits to labor epidurals. They can be used for pain relief during labor and surgical anesthesia if you need a c-section.

      If the epidural is not working adequately for the c-section, IV medicine is given to supplement the epidural anesthesia. If this method isn’t helping, you would be placed under general anesthesia.

      The IV medicine can make you sleepy and unable to remember much of the c-section. But this is IV medicine is needed when an epidural isn’t working as well.

      As for your feelings you are experiencing now, it would be very unlikely for them to be a result of the anesthesia medicines. You are definitely correct that narcotic medicines can make some people feel a little different. But these medicines would have worn off fairly quickly.

      As to where to go from here? I would recommend that you continue to let your OB/GYN know what you are going through. They are the physician that probably knows you the best. And hopefully visiting the site has helped a bit :)

  6. Amanda says:

    I have had two epidurals and found them to be wonderful! Both of my labors were very peaceful as I was able to rest and laugh with my husband. I also had plenty of energy to take care of our baby after the delivery.

    • David Draghinas says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Amanda. I’m glad you had positive experiences.

      My wife just delivered last week. We have a beautiful baby daughter (our first)! After reading through our ebook (The Epidural Blueprint) and consulting with me, she decided she wanted an epidural. Although still a bit apprehensive, the epidural placement went smoothly and the epidural itself worked just as intended.

      She was able to quickly get comfortable. And although it was our first pregnancy (where labor often takes a bit longer), I believe the epidural allowed her to “relax”, facilitating the progress of the first stage of labor, and getting her to the pushing stage. Thankfully, that went quickly as well.

      She was definitely glad she opted for the epidural. And I’m proud of her for doing her homework, asking a lot of questions, and getting informed before making her decision.

      Dr. Dave

  7. I had an epidural with two pregnancies. A little background, I had a laminectomy for a ruptured disc L5S1 and was told an epidural would be fine. My first epi went wonderfully. Lower half of body just numb enough to not feel pain but I could still move when needed and feel pressure. Was able to walk about an hour after delivery.

    2nd epi not so great. I was warned ahead of time of the anesthesiologists poor bedside manner. Well after starting the epi he had asked if I could feel my legs. I told him the left side no but right side yes. He administered more and had me turn to my right. Slowly it felt wrong. I told him that with my first it numbed the lower half of my body but it was creeping up. Next thing I knew I couldn’t feel my chest. As they were trying to stabilize my blood pressure it got worse. I could only feel my hands and face and was scared I wouldn’t be able to breathe. By this time the anesthesiologist had gone to the next patient. They called him back in and he yelled at me to move my hands. A wiggled my fingers and he yelled you’re fine and left th room. So not cool. I calmed down cause I knew I had to but could feel nothing. They gave me oxygen which helped bu I wa shaking a ton uncontrollably. The epi didn’t wear off for a good 5 hours. It has been 4.5 months and I am getting pain at I ejection site. No numbness just pain. Is it still possible for that to go away?

    Thanks,

    Aspen

    • Aspen,

      Thanks for your eloquent comment. By the way, I love your name!

      I wish your second epidural went as well as your first. During your second epidural, it seems you had a one-sided block. This can happen and we can usually get the epidural to work on both sides if we have a few minutes. Ultimately, if the block stays on one side after trying a few different techniques, we can replace the epidural altogether.

      In your case, it appears that you then developed a much higher than optimal level of anesthesia. This is rare.

      I wish the communication would have been better during this whole experience for you as well.

      It would be uncommon for your back pain to be a result of the epidural placement. I am not saying that it is unimportant, just that it is likely to be from another cause. If the pain is indeed from the epidural placement, I would expect it to resolve.

      Hope this helps….

  8. Neet says:

    I just have a baby .by c-section. They gave me epidural .after delivery my right leg has a tingly feeling and could not bear my body wait. Doctors told me everything will be ok after 3 -4 days but today it’s one week gone but not use….

    • Hi there,

      Sorry to hear about the numbness in your leg. It is very rare to have persistent numbness after the epidural has worn off (usually a couple of hours). Numbness and weakness after this point is unlikely to a result of the epidural. Prior to undergoing the c-section, did you go into labor? Did you get to the pushing phase? Were your legs in stirrups? Have you had this numbness and weakness before?

      The answers to these questions will help. Rarely, numbness such as yours may be related to positioning while in labor or perhaps to a prior injury.

      Hope this helps and that you are feeling back to normal. How is your baby?

  9. Danielle says:

    I’ve had a total of 3 children & 3 epidurals. The first 2 were perfect! Just the right amount of numbness to take the edge off in all the right places still allowing me to feel/move my legs & know when I was having contractions. Perfect birth experiences! With the 3rd I wasn’t so lucky. It only worked on my legs & the far outside of the right side of my body all the way up to my breast leaving my abdomen & pelvic areas to feel it all. My poor anesthesiologist tried so hard to fix it for me but nothing she did worked. The more she tried the more tortured I became since it seemed the less I could feel the numb areas the more intense the pain became in the areas I could feel. Lol. I can laugh now because I ended up delivering a healthy baby with my jello legs that took HOURS to be able to feel again. Even with that experience I’ll definitely give the epidural another shot with my 4th baby due in May! It’s so worth it when it goes well, which it usually does.

    • Danielle,

      Thank you for sharing your story with everyone. I am so glad your first epidurals worked well for you.

      Rarely, the epidural medicine only works on one side of the body or the block is “patchy”. Most of the time though, the anesthesiologist can make the epidural work appropriately. It sounds like anesthesiologist tried everything.

      Most of the time, replacing the epidural itself will solve the problem of a one-sided block.

      I will keep my fingers crossed for another successful epidural if you decide to have a fourth baby.

      Thanks again for your comments!

  10. Jessica says:

    I’m so scared to have my baby, and i was considering an epi but every pregnancy is so different! Is it that bad without an epi?

    • David Draghinas says:

      Hi Jessica,

      Thanks for your comment.

      It’s difficult to answer your question, “is it that bad without an epidural”. Every labor experience is unique and each person has their own tolerance and perception of pain.

      What I can tell you is that, for most healthy women, epidurals are safe and provide excellent pain relief.

      My wife was nervous about the epidural too. After asking me a ton of questions and reading our epidural book, she decided to have an epidural. It took less than ten minutes to place, and she was able to relax so much better afterwards. So much so that we had our little girl way earlier than expected!

      Whatever you decide, I hope you have a safe and smooth experience.

      Dr. Dave

  11. Lindsay says:

    I was planning to get an epidural. I had to be induced and my baby was sunny side up so my contractions were very painful pretty early on. I got an epidural and felt so good for a little while, my only concern was whether I would accidentally poop during labor! Unfortunately my left side started to wear off and soon only my right side was numb. My anestheseologist tried different things but nothing worked. My body wouldn’t progress after a….9.5 cm! 30 hours of hell and I was SO CLOSE…. They wanted to wait several hours and then maybe try inserting something to help baby out. At this point I was screaming, my lower back felt like a wall was crushing down on it, and it was getting to the point where I felt I might pass out from the pain. I also felt like I was on fire, asking for people to dump cold water on me. It was a little pre eclampsia I think. Anyway, I was begging to be put out, I had been for a while. I think I couldn’t think straight bc of the pain. So I had a c-section. My mom had 5 c-sections so I didn’t think too badly of them at the time. The day we went home from the hospital I got the spinal headache. I had to lay flat to feel OK. So we went back in and got the patch and luckily that worked!
    With my second child, I tried a Vbac and it was a different hospital/Doctor and again my left side wouldn’t get numb. Both times, a spinal did not work on my left side as well! So as they were poking around about to start cutting, fortunately I could let them know I felt it. They had to sedate me so they had to put me all the way under again. That time, my son had to be helped to breath at first, it was traumatizing for my husband to watch.
    Its been a couple years and we are thinking we would like to have one more child….what would you recommend? Is the only option general anesthesia? I have heard there are higher risks but is there any alternative? I assume it will be easier since everyone will know in advance and plan for it? thanks if you read this!

    • David Draghinas says:

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, Lindsay. I’m sorry you’ve had to go through so much!

      Unless you try to VBAC again, you will likely be scheduled for a C/S. In that case, your anesthesiologist would likely recommend a spinal. Share all of your past experiences with your anesthesiologist.

      If the spinal fails, however, your alternative will be general anesthesia. The other alternative would be a pretty painful one–local anesthesia by the surgeon and perhaps some sedation.

  12. Alexis Kapp says:

    I had an epidural almost two years ago when I had my son. Everything went fine with the epidural and delivery. I know getting the epidural has an itching side effect but my back had been itching every since. I had never had problems with my back itching before my son. It mostly occurs up and down the middle of my back. The itching sensation gets worse at night and wearing a bra irritates my back more. The itching comes and goes and some days are better than others. I never mentioned it to the doctor because I figured it would eventually go away, however, now I feel I should get to the bottom of this. Have any idea what’s going on?

    • David Draghinas says:

      Hi Alexis,

      Itching can happen with an epidural and/or spinal due to a special type of morphine that is often used to help with pain relief.

      However, this itching should not last more than a day or so.

      I am not sure that what you are currently experiencing is due to the epidural.

      Dr. Dave

  13. Malena Cochran says:

    I had my first two children without epidurals, bith induced, with no problem. My third was induced and I asked for an epidural due to a long period of time in labor pain and the stress. I had no problem with it except to say it did not make a difference. After having my son, since it was planned i would get my tubes tied, the catheter was left in my back. About 4 or 5 hours later I went in for the tubal ligation surgery and as soon as they administered medication into the catheter i had a quick reaction of severe pain and my head feeling really bad. All I remember was a towel being thrown on my head and doctors being heard in a panic. Soon i heard my doctors voice speaking to me and , long story short, was told I had flatlined for some time. I was grey and was kept in observation for several hours. After that day, my health has had a steady decline in terms of pain, fatigue, mental clarity and memory. After much assessment and pain, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. I know it is not proven by science thus far, but I am fairly certain this incident was the cause. So not worth it.

    • David Draghinas says:

      Thanks for sharing your story, Malena. And I’m sorry yours was a poor experience.

      I would say that your experience is not typical of most that choose a labor epidural. From your description, I’m not sure exactly what happened that caused your scary experience during the tubal ligation. Again, that’s not how things work out in most cases (I’m sure that doesn’t bring you any relief).

      And I’m unaware of epidurals, or any other forms of anesthesia, being tied to fibromyalgia.

      My thoughts and prayers are that you continue to improve from the debilitating symptoms you’ve had since that birth.

      Dr. Dave

  14. Alisha says:

    I had three epidurals with no problem. This last one was horrible!! Everything was great for most of my laboring. Yes the last 40 minutes or so it failed, I felt EVERYTHING! Although Im not upset that i t failed, the next day was worst! Less than 12 hours after giving birth I went in to have my tubes tied. Right off the bat I told the nurse my epi failed at the end and that I was able to feel it all. He said he still needed to test it. So as I laid there waiting on the doc to come in, the nurse injected somethingi n my epi. I felt a burst of really cold in my back. He waited a minute or two, and checked. Nope, epi wasnt working. So he tried again, and again still no. And AGAIN he injected me with something. And of course nothing. So ehen the doc came in he told the nurse I just needed to be put to sleep.
    So now 5 1/2 months out, I feel like my legs and hips are on fire. I cant sit for more than a few minyes without having pain when I stand up. My hips feel like they are out of place, and the bottoms of my feet feel like. Just ran a marathon bare foot.
    Now I know it has to do with the failed epi, like I said I had three others.

    • David Draghinas says:

      Alisha,

      I am so sorry to hear about your horrible experience. My hope is that, with time, you make a complete recovery.

      Dr. Dave

  15. Shylo says:

    Hello!

    I have three children. First son was all natural. Second I opted for the epidural. It took the anesthesiologist four attempts to insert the needle into my spine. No side effects worked well.

    I just had my third child. I asked for the epidural again. This time it took eleven tries and two anesthesiologists to get it in. Is this normal? The second doc told me that for some reason when I’m pregnant the spaces between my spine compress.

    It’s been six months and this is the second time since the labor that my lower back has hurt so bad I can’t stand up straight. I hunch over and am in extreme pain. Will this go away? I am scared it won’t go away. I wish I would have went natural. I wish I would have told them to stop.

    My husband says I have a knot where the injections were in my back and this is the location of the back pain.

    • David Draghinas says:

      I’m sorry to hear about your difficulties with epidurals. For most healthy people, an experienced anesthesiologist can place an epidural in less than about ten minutes.

      There is nothing about an epidural that should leave any kind of knot in your back, especially not six months later. That is something that may be worth showing to your doctor and having them assess what’s going on.

      All the best to you.

      Dr. Dave

  16. Keli says:

    I had a very weird experience with my epidural. The majority of my body went numb with just the test dose. They didn’t know why I went numb with just the test dose and they concluded that I was just too dehydrated. I couldn’t swallow. They removed the epidural needle right after. The epidural was inserted properly, not spinal fluids, etc. The epidural lasted for only 2 hours, right before I started pushing!

  17. Jennifer says:

    I have had three epidurals. The first two were wonderful. The only negative side effect was a slight back ache for a couple of days. The third epidural was a different story. It was very similar to Keli’s experience. After getting the epidural I started going numb everywhere (chest, face, arms) my blood pressure dropped drastically, I was unable to swallow,and I started throwing up. The anesthesiologist was called back up to give me something to pull up my blood pressure. He turned off the epidural and it wore off before delivery. I have been told that laying flat after an epidural can make it go up, but I was sitting up the whole time. We are expecting our fourth baby and I would love another epidural (like I said the first two were WONDERFUL) but I am worried about having another bad reaction.

    • David Draghinas says:

      Hi Jennifer,

      It’s hard for me to say what happened with your “bad epidural”, from the information.

      Make sure to tell your anesthesiologist about this experience if you should need and epidural again.

      Dr Dave

  18. mary ann says:

    I had an epidural two years ago with the birth of my daughter. Since that time I have an itch in the spot where the epidural was placed. It doesn’t itch all the time but it’s not a rare occurrence either. I can’t make the itch go away no matter how hard I scratch myself. It drives me crazy sometimes. Will this itching ever go away?

    • David Draghinas says:

      Hi Mary ann,

      I must say I have not heard this complaint before. I don’t have a good answer for you. But I hope it does go away soon.

      Dr Dave

  19. donna says:

    I had 2 failed epidurals they could not get it in. had bad headache and could not get out of bed for 3 weeks bad back pain was being sick. I have blurred vision comes and goes still have Headaches and pain all over my body. I have had every blood test scans feel awful. Now diagnosed with fibromyolgia. It’s been a year! now and Iam worse as I have 1 and a 2 1/2 year old daughters and I struggle as a single mother with this condition. To me it is obvious that I got this condition via the failed epidurals as fibromyolgia is related to the spinal fluid. The failed epidurals caused my spinal fluid to leak. I have seen that there are many people that have had failed epidurals not just for labor and now suffer from fibromyolgia so I can not understand why this is not being linked?

    • David Draghinas says:

      I don’t have a good answer to your question, Donna. There’s probably more research that needs to be done in this area.

      I sympathize with you, having a newborn and a toddler myself. It’s tough enough with two parents; I can’t imagine how difficult it would be as a single parent.

      You and your family is in my thoughts and prayers.

      Dr. Dave

  20. tiffany says:

    I have had two epidurals. The first one I they noticed not until the very end that it had fallen out and the pain was aweful through the whole thing. Second time was a year ago and they did it and it felt fine and took the pain away except after they gave me petocin and I started pushing and I felt so much pain.

    • David Draghinas says:

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, Tiffany.

      Pitocin and the progress of labor can result in increasing pain. This pain can usually be well controlled by adjusting the epidural medicine and sometimes giving a bolus of medicine.

      Dr Dave

  21. Tamika says:

    I had my first epidural with my third son, I really didnt olan to have one since i had gone natural the 1st 2 times. Well i asked for info about it, instead the nurse sent the anistegiologists in my room with the whole kit. So since my contractions were so bad i went ahead with it. I usually give birth within 3 hours, that time it doubled. The anistegiologists didnt get it right, and i had spinal leakage. After labor i had the worst headache and all i could do was close my eys and keep my head back in bed. I was given a heat pack for the pain. When i got home the first night and the baby began to cry in the middle of the night, i tried to get up and couldnt move. I had the worst back pain. For weeks i had to do a full stretch with my legs over my head before i could get of bed. I have frequent headaches and backaches. It hurts to push a grocery cart full of groceries. I recently had a job working at the hospital delivering food to the parients. I worked there for about 3 months. Since then im haing back pains again, anxiety, tremors and muscle stiffness. Its been 5 years next minth since I’ve had it and i know its a result from my epidural.

  22. Daisy says:

    I have also had complications and ongoing nerve pain and neurological issues since I had an epidural with my son 4 months ago. Doctors do not seem to be able or willing to connect the dots to the very obvious. There needs to be some kind of reporting system for this as I believe complications are much higher than we are lead to believe. Fibromyalgia is a sort of catch all term- I haven’t been diagnosed with it, but find it interesting that others have. Since my epidural I have had nerve pain and numbness in all 4 extremities and up into my face, jaw, & neck as well as poor temperature regulation, tremors, and excess sweating. I also have extreme weakness in my hands and legs and back pain at the site of the epidural that radiates down into my seat and legs. I have had frequent headaches, dry eyes, and decreased sense of smell. The anesthesiologist had difficulty with insertion and had to poke me 2 times. I would definitely NOT have an epidural if I could go back. I am concerned I may have a permanent condition called arachnoiditis as a result of this. Anesthesiologists are glad to help when you want an epidural but then in general want nothing to do with you when you have a problem because they don’t want to own up to the epidural being a causative factor and would prefer to turn a blind eye to all of us having complications. They want to attribute these symptoms to other causes so they can claim that complications are very rare. It is very discouraging how much these issues have diminished my quality of life and ability to be an active, energetic, and capable mom to my 4 kids. I have hope that these symptoms may diminish in time, but am trying to also prepare myself for the fact that they may not.
    Are they any studies or research being conducted to look at this? I know the rates of fibromyalgia have sky rocketed and I wonder if epidurals are a part of that.

  23. Treasa says:

    So my daughter had her first baby about a week ago an for the last past 3 days she will shake get cold an her hands will turn purple then she will get a high fever as high as 104.2 this only happens once a day.. I don’t know if it’s from the epidural or not but I am really worried… We’re calling the doctor first thing but thought mayb someone could tell me alil tonite wat they think…????

  24. Sarah Williamson says:

    I had an epidrual 2 years ago with my son. The epi actually fell out and I had it redone and replaced several times. I was in severe pain obviously as went from zero labour pains to strength number 10 pains. I finally had an emergency c sect, he was15 days over.

    Shortly after I had hand weakness, joint pains, ridiculous fatigue and a year later diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I went from a totally healthy woman to someone who had to change all plans, reduce working hours, change jobs etc as my life has been totally changed

    I wholly think the shock of the epi falling out was the shock to my body that cause the fibromyalgia :(

  25. Wendy says:

    I had an emergency C-section almost two years ago and straight after the procedure the top half of my body was itching like crazy, particularly my face. Eventually they gave me an injection to relieve the itching. For about three months after the birth I was itchy all over my body. Eventually it calmed down but now almost two years later I still get incredibly itchy on my hands, face and feet. Then I think it was made worse by the lumber puncture I had two months ago. Are anti-hystamines the right type of medication to use to relieve it? And will this itchiness ever go away?

  26. cyara says:

    I’m only 19 and this is my first pregnancy and they only thing I’m scared about is the numbness of the epidural. I’m scared its gonna make my anxiety go completely crazy but my mom said with all the pain that would be my least worry. But I don’t know ugh

  27. Melissa says:

    I had a really rough pregnancy and was induced a week early due to high blood pressure. After 24 hours with cervidol, the doctor tried to do the balloon on me, and I found that excruciating. At this point we decided to do the epidural.(was going to anyways to keep the blood pressure down during delivery) The anesthesiologist was so amazing and very kind. I was terrified to have a needle put somewhere I couldn’t see. Not only was he very patient with me and allowed me to do what I had to do in my time frame, he never judged me for being scared. Instead we swapped stories about painful things that had happened to us.
    After another 24 hours it was clear my son was not coming on his own and I had to have a c section. By the grace of God the same anesthesiologist was there, came into my room and sat with me to tell me exactly what was going to happen from his end. He stood right behind my head in the operating room and even had a hand on my shoulder when he could. I know epidurals are not for everyone, but the experience doesn’t need to be scary or awkward or even painful. I’m an woos and found the epidural to be the least painful thing to happen while in labor and delivery.

  28. Heather Maxwell says:

    I, too, have had a diagnosis of fibromyalgia after a very bad experience with an epidural. Now, this wasn’t my first one. It was my third. With my other two I had zero complications and everything went smoothly during and after the procedure. With my last one three years ago the anastheseaologist could not get the needle right into my spine. He tried for almost seven hours inserting and removing the tube to try and position it correctly. Ever since the birth of my son, I’ve been sick one way or another with muscle pain, twitches, anxiety, depression, deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, jaw problems, and the list goes on and on. I do blame my doctors and my anastheseaologist for this. I should include that I hemorrhaged in the middle and right after delivery so that complicated matters as well. If I had it to do all over again I would’ve declined the epidural altogether. I might as well have seeing I felt pain anyways.

  29. Camille says:

    Hi,

    I delivered my second son 2.5 months ago, and am still feeling some effects from a drug used during my epidural, called fentanyl. With my first son, I had an epidural the went nearly perfectly (during the procedure one side of my body experienced an awful shocking sensation). When the epidural procedure began this time around, it went very smoothly, until about 1 min after I laid down once the anesthesiologist was done; I started feeling a little itchy, then more and more itchy. After a few minutes, it was outrageous of control, my body started twitching and jerking because of how horribly itchy I was (within 3 minutes my right hip and thigh were bloody because of me scratching them so ferociously). The anesthesiologist said I was probably allergic to fentanyl, and the nurse gave me some benadryl and stopped the epidural, which mildly helped. Then she turned the epidural back on, which made me react just the same way. Before the pharmacy could come up with an alternative epidural, I delivered my son naturally (about 45 mins after the whole ordeal).

    Fast forward a couple of weeks, and while I’m home, I get sudden itchy spells that are just like what I felt at the hospital from my allergicomputer reaction. It happens at least 3 nights a week, and my son is almost 3 months old now! I take benadryl when I start to feel it, but it does nothing to help me.

    Is it normal to feel this way so long after the procedure?? Is there anything my GP can do for me?

    Thanks,

    Camille

  30. Katie says:

    I had my daughter almost 11 years ago they messed up my 1st epidural or it fell out don’t really remember but they did have to do it again didn’t realize that it left my butt and left leg numb till it started to wear off and couldn’t walk myself to the bathroom they told me I was fine took about a month or so till I got feeling back in my leg Drs kept saying it was fine and normal now I don’t know if it is because they promised me it wasn’t nerve damage but it came back when I went on a airplane for a little bit went aways today I went to visit family and bam numbness back and won’t go away again and sick of doctors saying its nothing

Leave a Reply