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Risking the Health of Newborns

Aug 26, 2008
Everything about having a baby is complicated. First you have to decide on a name, a doctor, nursery themes and one of the most important, a birthing method. Many mothers will have already decided on a birthing method long before they even get to the hospital. Some choose Lamaze, water delivery, epidurals, cesarean section and completely natural births. All of these are, in one way or another, "natural" except cesareans and epidurals.

Like all medications and anesthesia, epidurals have risks. As is natural during pregnancy, everything the mom does the baby benefits from. The rule holds true when using medications. For mom, there is a long list of side effects ranging from prolonged labor to more serious problems such as seizures or spinal blockages. Any one of these side effects can be dangerous and require immediate medical attention to both baby and mom. One of the more common side effects is loss of feeling, sure this might sound good, but when mom can't feel contractions, the baby needs to be extracted using forceps. The most common side effects are mild, such as headaches, numbness and bruising at the catheter site. One side effect epidural users don't want to hear however is this, 10% report inadequate pain relief according to Childbirthsolutions.com.

Not only is mom exposed to side effects, so is the unborn fetus. In many cases the mother's blood pressure will drop, as is normal for any anesthesia or medication. However this causes the fetus to react by dropping its heart rate to compensate for the lack of blood pressure. Most physicians will insist on an immediate cesarean when the fetal heart rate drops. When performing a cesarean however, more medication and anesthesia is used, this can only complicate the situation. Any amount of stress that is put upon the mother and fetus can result in problems when the fetus is born.

Once the fetus has left its protective shell in the womb, they are now exposed to all kinds of things. However often they are still recovering from the epidural effects for a few days after birth. Some newborns have what is called "epidural fever" which acts like an infection. The doctors treat this by administering IV antibiotics and isolating the baby until they are healthy. Some nurses and mothers have noticed that newborns are more irritable under the effects of epidurals. While these effects are typically short term, there is always the potential to have the effects linger.

There is an upside to epidural use for many mothers. It helps relieve anxiety about childbirth keeping the mental state intact, not all muscles are affected making it easier for the mother to move around and get comfortable. This is important for the mother during long hours of labor. The biggest reason women choose an epidural is, minimal pain.

New moms should talk to their doctors about the best choice and additional options before making a final decision on child birth. Often the thought of risking health problems for the baby is a price too high for some mothers, others are willing to take the chance and go for the epidural. There is no right or wrong option however new mothers should be conscious of the effects of medications on newborns. Making an education decision is crucial for both child and mother, the birthing choice is the first big one to make as a mom.
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