When can I receive an epidural during labor?
The decision of when you will receive your epidural will be a joint decision between you, your anesthesiologist and obstetrician. This decision may be influenced by such factors as your pain level, level of dilation, position of the baby, and whether this is your first baby. Women do not have to wait until they are dilated to a certain level before they can ask for, or receive, an epidural. If a woman is in active, established labor, and is uncomfortable, epidural analgesia is the most effective method of pain relief.
Can an epidural during childbirth harm my baby?
Epidural analgesia allows for excellent pain management, has been used for over 50 years in obstetrical care, and has a strong record of safety for both mother and baby. You should speak with your anesthesiologist and feel comfortable that YOU understand the procedure, risks, benefits and alternatives to your situation, and that your questions have been answered. Your care team will monitor your blood pressure and your baby's heart tones before, during and after your epidural just as they would in the normal course of your labor.
What is the difference between regional and general anesthesia for a C-section?
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.
Could anesthesia harm my baby if I need surgery while pregnant?
Both regional and general anesthesia can be given safely during pregnancy. It is important to have a multidisciplinary team of an obstetrician, surgeon, anesthesiologist and perinatologist working together to optimize your care.
Certain conditions may mean that your clinical team will select certain strategies (e.g., regional or general anesthesia, appropriate drugs, position you in a tilt, place compression stockings on your legs) to keep you safe, which will in turn keep your baby safe.
The team will likely monitor the baby with fetal heart tones before surgery and after surgery. Monitoring during surgery will depend on various factors, including the risks and benefits in your situation. This will be a decision of your clinical team and you should certainly feel comfortable asking the team so you understand the decision.