Anesthesia for Childbirth at Grand View Health

When you’re delivering your baby, the team at the Birth & Family Center at Grand View Health takes many steps to put your comfort first. Anesthesia in the form of an epidural or nerve block can help relieve pain during labor.

Types of anesthesia for childbirth at Grand View Health

  • Epidural block – This is the most common type of pain relief used by delivering moms in the U.S. With an epidural, medication is given through a tube placed in the lower back. You will have some loss of feeling in the lower areas of your body. However, you will remain awake and alert so you can push your baby through the birth canal during a vaginal birth. For a Cesarean section, the dose of an epidural may be increased.
  • Spinal block – This regional anesthesia is delivered through an injection into the fluid around the spinal cord. It’s most often used when you experience pain late in labor or if your delivery is expected soon and time won’t allow for the administering of an epidural. Spinal blocks relieve pain quickly but last only for a few hours.

What types of medication are in anesthesia for childbirth?

Epidural and spinal blocks use two different types of drugs—analgesics and anesthetics—for pain relief. Analgesics reduce your pain without a loss of feeling or muscle movement. Anesthetics relieve pain by blocking most feeling.

What to expect when you need an epidural

  • You will be asked to sit, and you’ll be attached to safety monitors.
  • You’ll be asked to arch or round out your back to assist in proper epidural placement.
  • The injection area will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution.
  • You’ll receive an injection of local anesthesia at the epidural site followed by placement of the epidural needle that will be used to insert your catheter.
  • Once the catheter is inserted and needle removed, you’ll receive medication to ensure the correct placement of your catheter. The catheter will then be taped securely to your back.
  • The catheter will be connected to an infusion pump that will automatically deliver medication to you. The amount of medication can be adjusted to your comfort level.
  • You will still be able to move with an epidural, but you will not be able to walk. You may still be aware of your contractions.

Risks and side effects

Itching is a common side effect of an epidural or spinal block. Nausea, vomiting and breathing problems are other possible side effects. Tell your anesthesiologist if you’ve had prior back surgeries or a history of scoliosis before your delivery date; these conditions require extra care from healthcare providers when delivering anesthesia.