Spinal anesthesia is the most common anesthesia used for c-sections. It is quickly administered, works well, and is extremely safe. Most scheduled c-sections are done using spinal anesthesia. C-sections are often scheduled for women who have had previous c-sections and in situations when the baby is breech. Other types of anesthesia for a c-section include epidural and general anesthesia.
The Spinal anesthesia is placed in the patients back by the anesthesiologist after she is in the operating room. The small spinal needle is placed through the back into the thecal sac where the spinal fluid is but below the level of the spinal chord. Medicine is then injected and the needle is removed. A mixture of anesthetic as well as pain relieving medication is usually used.
The spinal anesthesia will produce numbness from the toes to below the breasts. This will keep the patient from experiencing pain during the surgery. There will be a sensation of being touched and some pulling and tugging. This tends to be greatest when the baby is being delivered. This should not hurt.
The numbing part of the spinal should be gone in about 1-2 hours after surgery. A long acting pain medication is often given with the spinal. This can help decrease the pain of recovery from surgery for about the first 24 hours. A urinary catheter is kept in place for the first day after the c-section with a spinal anesthetic.
Spinal anesthesia is very safe for both the mother and the baby. Complications are rare. About 1% of women may get a headache after a c-section with a spinal. Headaches caused by spinal anesthesia are called “spinal headaches” and can be easily treated.