A 2018 Stanford study found that over seven out of ten (70%) pregnant women chose to have an epidural or another form of spinal anesthesia during delivery. This result represents an increase in the usage of epidurals of ten percent in just ten years when compared to a similar study conducted in 2008 which found that approximately 6 out of ten (60%) percent of pregnant women opted to have an epidural.
An epidural is an injection given intravenously in the lower back region to expectant mothers during delivery. It works by numbing the woman’s pelvic area, reducing birth pain, and alleviating some of the stress and fatigue experienced during delivery.
But epidurals are not without a downside. They present a risk of birth injuries and other harm to both the mother and the newborn if the delivery team fails to exercise due care during and after the administration of the epidural. If this happens to you, you may need the help of a birth injury lawyer to recover compensation for your injuries.
An Epidural Is More than a Simple Shot
You may be tempted to think that an epidural is just a simple shot, like a flu shot or childhood vaccine. While an epidural injection may resemble such routine injections, epidurals are associated with certain risks over and above the risks of a routine injection because epidural injections require injecting medication directly into the spinal cord. For that reason, even when an epidural is administered correctly, there is still a chance of complications developing.
An epidural can cause an expectant mother to develop a fever during labor, which could lead to breathing difficulties for the newborn infant. This lack of oxygen during and immediately after birth can lead to the infant suffering brain injuries and cerebral palsy. A lack of oxygen to the brain can also cause the infant to experience seizures or a stroke.
The effects of some of these injuries can last long after the mother and child leave the delivery room.
Epidural errors and mistakes can also lead to changes in the baby’s position in the mother’s womb just before delivery. This can cause challenges during delivery that could threaten the health of both the mother and the infant and require emergency measures.
Reducing the Risk of Birth Injuries
Some of the risks associated with epidurals will exist regardless of any errors in the epidural administration. However, some precautions should be taken to reduce the risk of epidural-related injuries occurring to the mother and child.
Risks Should Be Clearly Explained to the Mother
First, your OB/GYN should discuss the benefits and risks of an epidural with you. Ideally, this discussion should happen well before you find yourself in the delivery room.
Your doctor should identify conditions that may make it impossible for you to receive an epidural, such as a prior back injury or the use of blood thinners.
In many cases, the decision to have an epidural will be yours. This decision should be made with a clear understanding of the personal risks associated with having an epidural.
The Timing Needs to Be Right
It may be too late to safely administer an epidural if you are too far along during your delivery. For example, if the baby’s head is already visible, it is far too late for an epidural to be administered. Doing so can be dangerous to you and your child.
For this reason, your doctor and nursing staff should remain aware of how far along you are in your delivery at all times. If your delivery has progressed too far, your delivery team should decline to give you an epidural.
The Staff Administering the Epidural Should Be Trained
The individual administering the epidural should be properly trained on how to do so. Injuries and complications can arise if the amount of anesthesia is too great or if the epidural is improperly inserted.
The Vital Signs of the Mother and Baby Should Be Monitored
Administering an epidural injection is not the end of the process. Once you receive an epidural, your medical team should continue monitoring your and your child’s health throughout the remainder of the delivery.
Abnormal readings in vital signs after the administration of an epidural can indicate complications that should be addressed. The earlier such complications are detected, the greater the likelihood of a positive outcome.
When to Call a Birth Injury Lawyer
If you or your child are injured during delivery, and you receive an epidural, you may have a claim for compensation. Contact a birth injury lawyer right away to have your case evaluated.
The Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq. has experienced birth injury lawyers available to help families in Los Angeles and throughout California. Contact our office for a free consultation with our firm’s birth injury lawyers.