Complications Following Epidural: Why Did This Happen?

I delivered my daughter after being induced for high blood pressure. I had an epidural seven hours before Samantha was born. She had trouble breathing, but everything turned out fine for her. I, on the other hand, was the one who had complications. After her birth, I could not feel my legs. I spent five days in the hospital, seeing numerous doctors including a neurologist. One doctor said it was the epidural, the other said it was the position of the baby during labor.

Six weeks later, I can finally walk (with a lot of physical therapy). The neurologist said it occurs to 1 in 2,000 births. Have you any idea what might have happened?

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Peg Plumbo CNM

Peg Plumbo has been a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) since 1976. She has assisted at over 1,000 births and currently teaches in the... Read more

The risks of epidural anesthesia are often not discussed at any length with clients before administration, so the woman is not able to give fully informed consent.

When administering any type of regional anesthesia, both the entry of the needle and the medication can cause adverse reactions and complications. There is always risk of local anesthetic toxicity or high spinal block, postdural puncture headache, drop in maternal blood pressure, fetal distress, allergic reaction, neurologic injury, and inevitable slowing of the progress of labor.

Paralysis after epidural anesthesia is extremely rare. According to Gabbe (1997), "Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies", "all forms of nerve injury occur in less than 1 in 10,000 applications of regional anesthesia". The book goes on to say, "whenever nerve damage follows regional anesthesia during obstetrical procedures, the anesthetic technique must be suspect".

But the drug itself, or other pressures applied, such as the use of forceps or retractors could also possibly be the cause of nerve injury. It is very, very unlikely that the pressure of the baby's head could have caused such loss of function. The formation of a hematoma (a bruise which holds a collection of blood) could also be the cause of such loss of sensation.

I am glad that this is resolving and I hope you are able to collect as much information as possible on this. It is important for women to know that such procedures do carry risks.

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