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.
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