What are the anesthesia options for a C-section?

The choice of anesthetic option for a cesarean birth needs to be based on the preferences and unique needs of each woman. In general the options include regional and general anesthesia. Regional anesthetic options include a spinal or an epidural block.  With a regional anesthetic a motor and sensory function to an area of the body is blocked, but the patient is awake during the surgical procedure. With a general anesthetic the patient is put to sleep for the surgical procedure. When administering a general anesthetic, the anesthetic agents are introduced into the woman’s circulatory system and will perfuse to the placenta and fetus. Therefore rapid delivery of the fetus following initiation of the anesthetic is important.

During a C-section, regional anesthesia involves the administration of a spinal or epidural anesthetic into the mother’s lower back. When this happens, the mother is awake for the delivery but does not feel any pain. Advantages to regional anesthesia include being awake for the birthing experience, the potential for improved neonatal outcomes (such as higher Apgar scores) and a reduction in the amount of blood loss during surgery. During general anesthesia, the mother will be unconscious.

Maternal request is always taken into account when deciding on regional or general anesthesia for a C-section, but there are times when one technique is far superior to the other. Both anesthetic techniques can be safely administered.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.