Epidurals are used in 60 percent of births in the United States. A cathedar is inserted into the space between the vertebrae, also known as the epidural space. Medication is administered through the cathedar, numbing sensation in the lower part of the body. In most cases, the procedure works fine and there are no lasting negative effects.
In a small number of cases, things do not go according to plan. Some women experience severe reactions to the epidural. About 1 in 10,000 will experience convulsions. In other cases, medical error during the procedure can lead to severe injury or even death. One in 100,000 epidurals results in the death of the mother.
Sometimes a medical mistake leads to a deadly end. A medical mistake in 2003 at a military hospital in Hawaii led to the death of Jennifer Adams, a first time mother. A nurse anesthetist administered the epidural and immediately Jennifer collapsed and turned blue. She went into cardiac and respiratory arrest.
It turns out the nurse made a fatal error. She inserted the epidural into the wrong place and administered the anesthesia to her heart. Jennifer was revived, but both she and her baby suffered brain damage from lack of oxygen. She died 12 days later.
Infection is another danger that can lead to deadly consequences when combined with an epidural. In April 2003, a mother named Julie LeMoult was admitted to a hospital in Washington DC for the birth of their first child. Julie passed away the next day as a result of bacterial menin-geo-encephalitis caused by strep.
The family contends that the strep was introduced into her body via the epidural. She was healthy when she arrived at the hospital and didn’t show any signs of illness until after the birth. The hospital contends that the infection wasn’t caused by the hospital and she must have had it when she arrived. The case is pending in the courts.
The purpose of this blog is not to scare anyone. However, there are serious risks to this form of anesthesia. It’s important to understand these risks to make an informed decision regarding medical care. Only you can determine if the benefits outweigh the risk involved in any medical procedure.