Obstetrical Anesthesia

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Spectrum anesthesiologists are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to offer our services if and when you need pain relief during the delivery of your baby. We offer epidurals for labor and also intrathecal narcotics. We also offer a full range of anesthesia services in the event of the need for a cesarean section.


Additional Information

When and if you and your obstetric care provider feel that the time is right for an epidural for your pain, your obstetrician or nurse midwife will call the anesthesiologist to request a placement. As soon as possible, your anesthesiologist will arrive to place the epidural or intrathecal medicine.

An epidural will not make you feel groggy, sleepy, or confused and provides prolonged pain relief without the complete loss of sensation. In addition, you will still be able to move around with an epidural. Women who have had epidurals often note that the medication made them feel more relaxed and comfortable during the delivery.

An epidural will be administered by an anesthesiologist in your labor room. You will be asked to assume either a side-lying or sitting position, with your chin tucked on your chest and your knees close to your abdomen. After an injection of local anesthetic, the epidural needle is placed in your back and into the epidural space. A small catheter is threaded through the needle into the epidural space. The needle is then removed and the catheter taped to your back. Medication is then administered through the catheter.

After placement of the epidural medicine, you should begin to notice the effect within 10 to 15 minutes. An infusion pump will be used to continuously run pain relieving medicine through the epidural after it is in place. The epidural can remain in place throughout the duration of your labor and may also be used to deliver anesthesia for a c-section if necessary. The removal of the epidural catheter is very quick and simple, like removing a large Band-Aid off of your back.

Women who have had a previous back surgery, heart or blood disease, a skin disorder of the back, or allergies to local anesthetics may not be candidates for an epidural. If you have had any of these conditions, you should discuss this with your obstetric care giver.

The anesthesiologist will work with you to adjust the level of anesthesia so that you are comfortable. A total numb state is used for cesarean sections. Less anesthesia is used for labor, and you may feel pressure and sensation during contractions or vaginal exams. Some women experience a temporary numbness, heaviness, or weakness in the legs. Sometimes as labor progresses the patient may experience increase in pain. You may receive additional medications in your epidural.

Yes. In fact, because women are more comfortable and relaxed after an epidural, they can more easily focus on pushing. The labor nurse, doula, and/or your partner will coach you when to push if you cannot feel labor contractions.

As with any medication, there may be side effects with an epidural. The most common side effects include shivering and a headache and/or back ache after the delivery. Shivering can be brought on by the coldness of fluids. Some women complain of a backache after the delivery. This is thought to be due to the strain on muscles during delivery and is not necessarily a result of the epidural itself. Some patients will experience some tenderness at the insertion site for a day or two after.

Although uncommon, you may get a headache, which will disappear within a few days. Lying flat on your back, drinking plenty of fluids (especially those with caffeine), and pain medication can be used to help reduce your discomfort. If the headache persists, your nurse will notify the anesthesiologist.

If you are a patient that is scheduled for a cesarean section, or if you are planning a cesarean birth with your obstetrician, instead of an epidural block, spinal anesthesia is generally used. The spinal needle is placed in the same location of the back where an epidural block is placed. With a spinal anesthesia, there is a much smaller dose of anesthetic medication needed and the onset of numbness is almost instant.

The anesthesiologist will meet with you the day of your procedure to describe the type of anesthesia you will receive and also answer any questions you have regarding anesthesia for the surgery.

Our goal during the delivery of your baby is to make you as safe and comfortable as possible. We are always available to answer your questions. You can reach an anesthesiologist by calling the main hospital number and asking for the anesthesiology office.