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  • Sharon Tenuta

Mom, please don’t have an epidural anesthetic during labor!

Does anesthesia during labor cross the placental barrier and affect baby?

Epidural anesthesia during labor does affect baby. According to Marsden Wagner, 8-12 percent of labors where a woman receives an epidural bloc, the baby gets severe fetal hypoxia as shown on the electronic fetal monitor. Due to the lack of oxygen, babies at one month show minor brain damage, per neurological test results. The epidural block often causes the “cascade effect”. This means that one intervention leads to another. Often mothers given an epidural, end up with a forceps or vacuum extraction which leads to episiotomy or cesarean sections, which leads to fever in mother, which leads to…

According to Sarah Buckley, when a mother is given an epidural, there is a greater chance for instrumental delivery and the forceps delivery was found to be twice the force used when an epidural was not in place. Some of the most significantly documented side effects for the unborn are derived from the mother such as the natural orchestration of the hormones that affect the baby’s blood pressure, and temperature regulation. Also, the drug levels in baby are higher than in the mother. There are FHR abnormalities due to the drug crossing the placenta barrier.

The epidural can have many effects. It can cause mother to be sleepy, which in turn makes the baby sleepy and neither one is ready to recognize each other for the special bonding time immediately after birth. This can also affect baby’s ability to latch onto mother for nursing. This can depress baby’s respiration, which in turn would cause the baby to be taken away from mother for the ICU.

A Stockholm study showed natural births and compared them to births where the mothers received no drugs nor interventions. The babies whose mothers had drugs showed that they cried more and took much longer (2 hours or more) to touch mother’s nipple or to suck. Babies of medicated mothers had significantly higher temperatures.

A study in Boston, Massachusettes at Brigham Hospital, from 1994-1995, showed the following outcomes for babies whose mothers were given epidurals: 31.3% were admitted for Neonatal Care, 5.2% needed more than 4 hours neonatal care, 29.6% were tested for sepsis, and 13.9% were given antibiotics.

For long term effects, I found it interesting that a study was done in Stockholm which found that exposure to drugs at birth could cause children to become drug addicts when they grew up. The study started by looking at the increased rates of suicide in young people. For example, a suicide by mechanical means (hanging, strangulation or drowning) were 4 times as likely (as the control group) to have suffered asphyxiation during birth. Babies exposed to barbituates and opiates given within 10 hours of birth were at increased of some kind of suicidal death. Nitrous oxide used at birth by mother as a pain relief created more drug addicts. The study concluded that “imprinting at birth could be the mechanism by which some young people are trapped into addiction after trying drugs, whereas others are not. Boys seemed to be at greater risk than girls.

Michel Odent reported in this article that a midwife who did her doctoral thesis on drug research and its side effects on baby, was refused her Ph.D on the grounds, according to one examiner, “If this is true, it would mean what we have been doing all these years is wrong.” Some further research is not accepted because of small individual companies not being funded. However, there are research models that show autistic children may be caused by the use of anesthesia during labor and induction of labor. (Ryoko Gattori-1991)

The World Health Organization conference on drug use in 1984 concluded that, “Some obstetric techniques which involve giving drugs have become virtually routine in certain centers or countries; the fact that they are much less widely used elsewhere shows that they are not essential to normal delivery. No form of drug therapy should be used in delivery except where there is a specific indication for it.” (View a spinal epidural)

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