The most common injuries from an epidural include a variety of birth injuries to the baby as well as possible long-term effects on the mother. While epidurals are generally thought to be a relatively safe and effective option for pain management during labor and delivery, they are not without risks.
Epidurals are a type of regional anesthesia or pain block that is given intravenously into the mother’s spine using a long needle and very thin catheter. Once in place, the needle is removed, and the catheter remains so that medication can continue to be administered as necessary.
When it works properly, this provides the mother with a block for much of the pain, but she may still feel sensations such as pressure and the need to push. However, this is not always the case, and many women cannot feel when to push. This may lead to a longer second phase of labor, increasing the risk of birth injuries.
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Research Shows Babies Born to Mothers With an Epidural May Require More Assistance Following Birth
According to a study published in the International Journal of Women’s Health (IJWH), there are some statistically significant differences in babies who were born following an epidural and those who were born after another type of pain relief or no pain relief. This includes:
- More babies born after an epidural require NICU stays
- Babies born after an epidural are more likely to have respiratory distress
- The rate of birth injuries is higher for babies born after an epidural
- Babies born after an epidural tend to have higher temperatures
- More babies born after an epidural require oxygen supplementation during their first 24 hours
- More babies born after an epidural require antibiotics during their hospital stay
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Mothers May Also Be At-Risk of Injury Following an Epidural
A literature review published in the Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews (CDSR) identified the most common injuries from an epidural that affect the mother. It is important to recognize that many of these factors also affect the outcome of labor and delivery and increase the risk of birth injuries to the baby. In this way, the risks to the mother and the newborn are closely related.
Common injuries mothers suffer from an epidural include:
- Stalled labor or extended second stage of labor
- The need for oxytocin administration to speed labor
- The need for an assisted vaginal birth, usually with forceps or a vacuum extractor
- Maternal hypotension, or a significant drop in blood pressure, causing dizziness, nausea, and possibly fetal distress
- Maternal fever, which can cause additional symptoms
- Urinary retention requiring the use of a urinary catheter
- An increased risk of an emergency cesarean section necessitated by fetal distress
There are also concerns about where the epidural is placed. Because the needle and catheter are so close to the spinal cord, this can lead to problems. Some women report ongoing back pain or numbness in the area. In addition, it is not uncommon for the needle to poke a hole in the dura that protects the spinal cord. This allows spinal fluid to drain and may lead to severe headaches that last for several days.
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Building a Case for a Birth Injury Medical Malpractice Claim
In some cases, injuries you or your child suffered as a result of an epidural may support a birth injury medical malpractice claim. If your doctor or an anesthesiologist acted carelessly or negligently in ordering your epidural, administering your epidural, or monitoring your or your baby during labor and delivery, you may be able to hold them responsible and recover compensation.
A birth injury attorney who is familiar with the laws in your state will be able to advise you if you have a case, as well as help you navigate the claims process based on your state’s rules and time limits. In general, proving an epidural malpractice case requires evidence including:
- All relevant medical records
- A review of your case by a qualified medical expert witness
- Documentation of the damages your family sustained as a result of the malpractice
With strong evidence to support your claim, you may be able to recover damages that include medical treatment costs, ongoing support and care costs, miscellaneous expenses, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and more.
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Get Help Today–Call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group
You can reach the Birth Injury Lawyers Group today by calling (800) 222-9529. You can speak to someone who is familiar with the laws in your state and how to pursue losses in a birth injury medical malpractice case. These consultations are always free, and most birth injury attorneys take on this type of case with no out-of-pocket cost to the victim’s family.
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