Types of Obstetric Anesthesia
As previously mentioned, epidurals are commonly used during childbirth to help manage the mother’s pain. This injection is administered by the obstetrician to the lower back. Once used, the epidural will require approximately 10-20 minutes before the patient will feel its numbing effects.
Individuals who receive an epidural will be completely numb throughout the area where the medication was injected, though they will retain sensation in the rest of the body, thus allowing women to stay alert for the duration of their birthing process.
Similar to an epidural, a spinal block may be used on the lower back to desensitize the area. Spinal blocks tend to take effect a bit more quickly than epidurals, and usually only require 1-2 minutes before the patient’s discomfort will start to dissipate.
For those that want the quickness of a spinal block in combination with the long lasting effects of an epidural, there is an anesthetic available called a combined spinal-epidural, or CSE. Patients who elect for a CSE often retain the use of their legs to support their weight if they would prefer to walk around a bit during labor to use the restroom if needed.
To relieve pain of the vagina and rectum before a child is born, a pudenal block may be given. This anesthetic is named for the area which it numbs, the pudenal nerve, which is located between the vagina and anus. A pudenal block is especially helpful if your doctor determines that an episiotomy is needed, which is a surgical incision made to widen the birth canal.
Narcotic substances may be given for women who would prefer to avoid an injection in their lower back. While opioids will provide relief from the pain, they can affect both the mother’s and the baby’s breathing, which can cause further complications during childbirth.
Like narcotic medications, tranquilizers may also make patients feel particularly drowsy. For this reason, they are not often used during childbirth, though they can be beneficial for women with significant anxiety during labor and delivery.