Pain Relief During Labor

General anesthesia

Prior to a cesarean delivery, general anesthesia may be used. With general anesthesia, the pregnant woman is temporarily put to sleep and has a tube in her windpipe to allow the delivery of oxygen. Most women want to be awake to hear their baby's first cry, so general anesthesia is usually reserved for emergencies.

Risks. There are risks with any procedure and with the use of opioids. When opioids are given intravenously, mom will feel sleepy, and most babies will too. The fetal heart rate pattern usually shows this by having fewer accelerations, but this resolves as the baby awakens. If the opioid is given close to delivery, some babies will be sluggish in their breathing and will need a boost.

The risks of epidural and CSE include spinal headache (severe headache after regional anesthesia that worsens upon standing up) for less than 1 percent of women. Many women will complain of low-back ache after delivery, but very few of those complaints are related to the epidural. Other women worry that a needle near their spinal cords will cause nerve damage. This is an extremely rare complication of regional anesthesia.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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