Anesthesia Options for Labor
Anesthesia is a type of medication to prevent pain. It is often used in labor. It may numb only one region of your body. This is called regional anesthesia. Or it may let you sleep during surgery. This is called general anesthesia. This type of medication is given by a trained specialist. When possible, regional anesthesia will be used. This is so you can be awake during your baby’s birth. The type of anesthetic you have may depend on the hospital guidelines.
Regional anesthesia may be used to numb your lower body for a vaginal or cesarean birth. It does not go into your bloodstream. This means that little or none of it will reach your baby. There are two kinds:
Epidural. This is most often given while you sit up or lie on your side. A needle with a flexible tube (catheter) is put in your lower back. The needle is then removed. The anesthetic is sent through the catheter. A pump may be attached. This gives you a constant level of anesthetic. An epidural often only partly affects muscle control. This means you should still be able to push for a vaginal birth.
Spinal. This is most often given in one dose right before delivery. It acts fast. You may sit up or lie down when it is injected. It may affect muscle control in your lower body. This includes the ability to push.
General anesthesia lets you sleep and keeps you free of pain during surgery. It may be used for a cesarean. It may be given as an injection. It may be given as an inhaled gas. Or it may be given as both. Delivery often occurs before the medication has reached the baby.