Mothers may not realize the risk they pose to their children when they choose epidurals. According to a recent American Academy of Pediatrics Journal study, the risk of infant injury increases during delivery as the mother’s body temperature rises. Such a rise in temperature is a common side effect of epidural injections. Other epidural side effects can cause direct harm to newborns.
In the Journal’s study, a total of 2,784 women’s medical records were reviewed. Candidates in the study all showed healthy, low-risk pregnancies, and were 37 weeks along or more. Researchers divided the women into two test groups: those who chose epidurals, and those who did not. In 19.2% of cases, mothers receiving epidurals showed temperatures exceeding 100.4° during delivery. The rate for those who chose not to receive an epidural was only 2.4%.
Fever Side Effects
The effects of increased maternal temperature varied for their babies. Researchers found that as the mothers’ temperature increased so did the infant’s risk of decreased blood oxygen, a greater need for assisted ventilation, higher rates of early onset seizures and lower Apgar scores. Babies born to women with fevers experienced a 2 to 6 times increased risk for these issues.
Apgar scores are taken within five minutes of a child being born. Doctors use them to rate breathing, heart rate, muscle tone, reflexes and skin color. According to Medline Plus, healthy scores are usually between seven and nine. Mothers who chose epidurals bore children who scored seven or less.
US Health News HealthDay reported on higher incidents of seizures and assisted ventilation, particularly among older mothers with elevated body temperature. The study shows that 4.4% of mothers with normal temperatures could expect their children to require some sort of resuscitation measure at delivery. In those with elevated temperature, the rate jumped to 12%. Reduced levels of oxygen can lead to serious, long-term injuries for infants, such as brain injury, cerebral palsy and death.
Making Informed Decisions about Epidurals
Mothers who are aware of epidural risks can make informed decisions, such as choosing natural birthing methods. When doctors fail to address all of these concerns with a pregnant woman, they put the mother and child at risk.
Although the study cannot prove that the higher fevers were caused by epidural injection and not infection, the women who participated in the study were known to be otherwise healthy expectant mothers, suggesting disease was not the underlying cause of the high body temperatures. Researchers do not know if administering a fever reducer along with an epidural could lessen the risks to infants. Despite the uncertainty, mothers who choose epidurals need to know about the potential risk and actions they may take to reduce the risk.
If you or someone you care about suffered injury because of an unnecessary epidural application, contact our experienced attorneys today to find out if you are eligible for compensation. We offer a free consultation, during which we will discuss your legal rights and options. It is vital you act quickly because the law limits the time in which you can file a claim.