Anesthesia for Cesarean Section Delivery: Types & Side Effects

Anaesthesia for C-Section Delivery – Types and Side Effects

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Sabiha Anjum (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

While pregnant, it is only natural for a woman to wish for normal delivery. But medical complications during pregnancy may make a normal delivery impossible or full of risks. In such a case, the doctor may suggest a caesarian section. While the thought of undergoing a C-section can keep you awake at nights, but if it helps, we would like to tell you that you will be administered anaesthesia before the surgical procedure. We know the thought of anaesthesia may not appeal (or sound convincing enough), but it can help. There are several types of anaesthesia that can be administered during the surgery.

In case you’re planning to have a C-section delivery due to medical reasons or by choice, know what your options are in anaesthesia. Read through the article and have a better understanding of anaesthesia for c-section, its various types, associated risks, and more.

Factors That Determine the Anaesthesia To Be Given During a Caesarean Delivery

Here are certain factors that your doctor will consider when deciding the type of anaesthesia to be given to you during the surgical procedure:

  • Your medical history
  • An emergency
  • The need for anaesthesia during labour
  • Planned caesarean section
  • Any additional surgery or your surgery is complicated and may take longer

Different Types of Anaesthesia Used during a C-section Birth

Following are the types of anaesthesia used during a c-section:

1. Epidural Anaesthesia

Epidural anaesthesia may be administered when your doctor recommends a C-section under local anaesthesia. This anaesthesia is given around the nerves in the lower back. The catheter is inserted in the lower back using a needle and the needle is taken out once the catheter is secured with tape. This procedure requires administering a larger dosage of anaesthesia and it may take longer to work.

Different Types of Anaesthesia Used during a C-section Birth

When It Is Administered

This anaesthesia is given to improve the quality of anaesthesia used during the c-section.

How This Is Performed

  • You will be required to sit curled up towards your belly.
  • A catheter is inserted using a needle, once the catheter is secured with the tape, the needle is removed.
  • If the need for a c-section arises, anaesthesia will be administered through the catheter.

2. Spinal Anaesthesia

Also known as spinal block anaesthesia, this local anaesthesia is administered around the spinal cord using a needle. This anaesthesia is effective in keeping the lower body numb, which is below the waist up to the toes, for three to four hours. The small amount of anaesthesia helps in blocking the pain quickly.

Spinal Anaesthesia

When It Is Administered

This is administered for most caesarean deliveries as it starts its effect within 2 to 5 minutes.

How This Is Performed

  • Anaesthesia will be administrated directly into your spinal fluid.
  • No catheter is required for this procedure, thus no extra medicine can be given.
  • You will be awake during the procedure.

3. Combined spinal-epidural Anaesthesia

For a long-lasting, complete, and quick numbness, this anaesthesia is the best option. In this procedure, the spinal anaesthesia is used for the surgical procedure. However, the epidural is not only used to keep the anaesthesia levels up but it also provides relief from the after-surgery pain.

When It Is Administered

The CSE or combined spinal-epidural anaesthesia is used in 20 per cent of the caesarean deliveries.

How This Is Performed

This anaesthesia follows both the above procedures of epidural and spinal anaesthesia.

4. General Anaesthesia

This anaesthesia is not used much for caesarean deliveries and only administered in 10 per cent of the caesarean deliveries. While administering this anaesthesia, the mother remains unconscious during the surgical procedure. This type of anaesthesia may not be a safe choice for the baby in comparison to local anaesthesia. However, it is only opted by doctors in special cases.

When It Is Administered

Though most doctors recommend and opt for local anaesthesia for a c-section, however, sometimes your doctor may recommend general anaesthesia in the following conditions:

  • Where local anaesthesia may be unsafe because of some medical conditions.
  • Where an emergency caesarean section may be required but the chances of considering this are rare.
  • In case of any spinal deformity.

How This Is Performed

C-section general anaesthesia may be recommended by your doctor in case your c-section has to be performed urgently or if there is not enough time to administer local anaesthesia. A tube will be inserted in your mouth to assist you to breathe better throughout the surgical procedure. You will remain unconscious under the effect of the anaesthesia.

Side Effects of Using Anaesthesia

Here are some side effects of using anaesthesia:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • You may feel some tingling in your bottom or legs (in case of epidural or spinal anaesthesia)
  • You may experience shivering
  • You may feel pain in your back; this may be temporary due to the use of the needle or being in an uncomfortable position during the procedure
  • You may feel dizzy
  • You may experience itching
  • You may have a headache, which may last for a few days or a few weeks

Recovery After Anaesthesia

In case of local anaesthesia (spinal or epidural), the effect of anaesthesia will wear off in a few hours. Your legs may feel weak and you may also have some tingling sensation in them. You will be given painkillers to provide relief from the surgical pain. However, if you are given general anaesthesia, you may feel all sleepy and groggy after the effects of anaesthesia subside. You may experience nausea or irritation in your throat because of the oxygen pipe that had been inserted down your throat. Until you are fully awake, you will be monitored regularly.

When to See a Doctor

It is unlikely to have complications after anaesthesia, however, if you experience any of the following, get in touch with your doctor:

  • Bladder or bowel problems
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Tenderness or redness at the needle site
  • Intense headaches, which do not fade away
  • Weakness and numbness persist for long

It is very important that you talk to your doctor and know about all the options available to you. With your doctor’s expertise and guidance, you can take an informed decision, which is in your and your baby’s interest.

Also Read: Elective C-Section

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