Though research is somewhat ambiguous, most studies suggest some babies will have trouble “latching on” which can lead to breastfeeding difficulties. Other studies suggest that the baby may experience respiratory depression, fetal malpositioning; and an increase in fetal heart rate variability, which may increase the need for forceps, vacuum, cesarean deliveries and episiotomies. So nothing will really harm the baby, but there are side effects and none of them are helpful. There is a good chart here: http://www.kimjames.net/Baby%20Side%20Effects.htm
Although there are varying schools of thought that seem to come up with different reasons for each side, there is no denying that whatever the mother ingests while the baby is still inside of her will pass through to the child as well. Some side effects that could harm the baby due to an epidural:
1. Because the mother’s heart rate can unexpectedly drop after the epidural, the baby becomes at risk for fetal distress and abnormal fetal heart rate. When the baby is in distress s/he is more likely to be removed from the mother by forceps, vacuum, or by c-section
2. Drowsiness at birth and a poor sucking reflex. Drowsiness will interfere with the mother’s ability to bond with her baby immediately after birth and a poor sucking reflex will directly impede the baby’s ability to breastfeed after birth
3. Baby is born with poor muscle tone and strength (baby will likely be taken to the NICU to receive additional oxygen)
4. Researchers are still looking into the harmful effects of the epidural long term but preliminary research has shown delay in language learning skills including memory, perception, and judgment.
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