Anesthesia Options for C-Section

The most important factor in the choice of the various options of anesthesia for C-Section is whether this is a planned procedure, decided during labor, or as an emergency.

For most planned or scheduled C-Sections, spinal anesthesia is the most common choice. If a C-Section becomes necessary during the course of labor in the presence of an epidural which has already been placed, a stronger anesthetic can be injected through the epidural catheter to provide comfort for the delivery. An advantage to new mother in using a spinal or epidural for the C-section is that it is possible to witness and participate in the birth of the baby. If there is an urgency to proceed with the C-Section or it is medically not advisable to use either spinal or epidural anesthesia, general anesthesia would be necessary. This involves going completely asleep for the operation. In any case, members of the anesthesia care team will stay with you throughout the course of your delivery to help with your comfort and safety.

Spinal anesthesia - For planned C-Sections or in labor patient who don’t already have an epidural this is the most common choice. Spinal anesthesia is similar to epidural anesthesia except the needle used is much finer and is passed on purpose into the sac of fluid which bathes the spinal cord. The epidural is placed outside of this sac. Unlike the epidural, all necessary medicine is given in one injection through the needle. There is nothing except the medicine left inside. There is no epidural tube or catheter involved. The procedure for placement is otherwise very similar to epidural placement. Please refer to the explanation in the section explaining epidurals for labor.

Epidural anesthesia - If an epidural has been already placed in labor this most often will be used.

General anesthesia - This is used in urgent situations where there is not sufficient time to place a spinal or use an epidural. In this case, the patient goes completely to sleep for the procedure. General anesthesia has certain risks that are that are particular to the pregnant patient and newborn baby. This is why general anesthesia is not usually the first choice for C-sections. This procedure requires placement of a breathing tube to insure that the patient breathes and to protect the lungs from stomach contents. Placement of these tubes can be more difficult in pregnant patients because of changes in the body related to the pregnancy.