Has anyone besides me had a bad reaction to an epidural? In my case it was a drastic drop in blood pressure to 49/27. I am due for my second in a few months and am worried about getting another epidural - whether the same thing will happen again. I am also worried about the prospect of going for a natural delivery. I really don't know what to do.

asked 22 Oct '09, 03:47

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edited 11 Dec '09, 22:24

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An article in the American Family Physician claims that "the most common complications occurring with epidural analgesia are maternal hypotension [low blood pressure] and postdural puncture headache." The Best Birth by Sarah McMoyler also says that low blood pressure is the most common side effect of epidurals. Unfortunately, I can't find specific stats about how common this is. Also according to The Best Birth, staying well-hydrated may help control low blood pressure. Your doctor/health care provider might be able to give you some more specific information.

If you're interested in exploring alternatives to epidurals, I'd recommend a couple of different resources:

  • I really liked the book The Best Birth because it clearly explained pros and cons of multiple types of pain relief including both epidurals and "natural" methods.
  • If you're interested in natural childbirth and have the time, take a Bradley childbirth class. Pros: They do an excellent job of preparing you to deliver without pain medications. Cons: I feel like they don't appreciate the benefits that modern medicine has brought us. Also, they don't cite references and after spending hours tracking down some of their stats I came to the conclusion that some of the studies they cited about medical interventions were either misleading or had other problems.
  • As mentioned in another comment, doulas are wonderful. Even though my husband and I went through the Bradley class, we wanted a doula there as "backup." She massaged me, suggested alternate positions I could try, held the fetal heart monitor on so I wouldn't have to be tethered and provided support in many other small ways that made everything easier.

Also, remember that you always have the option to change you mind (well, until the very end :) ). I told my husband I didn't want an epidural until I'd asked him for it 3 times between contractins.

(I'm not trying to give the impression that natural childbirth is the way to go, just that it isn't necessarily something to be afraid of. After getting to the pushing stage without pain medication, my baby got stuck and the medical staff were unable to rotate him so I ended up getting a cesarean.)

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answered 22 Oct '09, 15:54

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Excellent answer! I was just going to comment that low blood pressure is very common with an epidural. I also recommend having a doula and taking Bradley classes.

(23 Oct '09, 00:25) Sarah

If you'd like to try for a natural delivery, I'd recommend using a doula, they can be your advocate and help you through the delivery.

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answered 22 Oct '09, 13:47

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I absolutely agree with this. Doulas can be fantastic support.

(22 Oct '09, 23:00) Emily
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Doulas are great support. But you and your husband have to be your own advocates. The doula can suggest things to you and remind you of your birth plan, but they can't/shouldn't discuss things with the doctor or make medical decisions on your behalf.

(10 Dec '09, 20:19) Scottie T

I had an epidural with all 3 of my kids and never had a bad outcome. I did get very itchy but that's common. Maybe your body just doesn't like them... Have you thought about just doing pain medicine instead?

goodluck...

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answered 22 Oct '09, 13:39

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Mommy trial and error
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My epidurals were fairly normal, but then my hospital also insists that anyone considering one get started on a saline IV drip an hour prior to getting the epidural - primarily to help with the blood pressure issue.

With my first baby I tried a dose of Stadol before I got my epidural. It was supposed to last something like 4 hours. I was only pain-free for about 30 minutes. For the next 30 minutes, I remember telling my husband that "I'm in pain, but I really don't care." Then the pain was back in full force and I wanted to know where the darn anesthesiologist was at and why I didn't have my epidural. Of course, with that delivery I was also given Pitocin to help it along, so going without a painkiller wasn't really an option. (My water broke very early in my labor and the doctor didn't want to risk an infection if I had a long labor.)

The second time around, things went so fast naturally that even though I had an epidural, it only took the edge off the pain during labor, and wasn't much help during the actual delivery. I probably could have gone without it the second time around.

If I somehow have another baby, I'll probably skip the epidural, but that's more because I don't expect to have time to get one before the baby comes.

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answered 22 Oct '09, 17:47

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It may seem mad, but have you considered giving birth at home?

At home you are in control and your labour in not interrupted by travelling to hospital, and a lot of women find that helps a lot with their hormones so that their labours are less stressful and less painful. The UK homebirth website has lots of information about why homebirths tend to be positive experiences. Just click on the "Why Homebirth?" link on the left hand side.

I don't know what the legal situation is in Canada, but in the UK women have the right to give birth where they choose.

A personal perspective: I've given birth at home three times, I used gas and air the first time (mainly to overcome my panic when I was in transition) and no medical pain relief at all the other two times. I look back on all three births with fondness.

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answered 10 Dec '09, 20:13

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I would love to consider the home birth option but I am high risk and its just not possible for me :(

(11 Dec '09, 15:30) dreamerisme

Did the same thing happen the second time around? I had the same problem and im freaking out on what I should do for the second one :/

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answered 11 Nov '14, 13:02

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Asked: 22 Oct '09, 03:47

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Last updated: 11 Nov '14, 13:02