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Anesthesia Services for Childbirth

Childbirth is a natural process that women have undertaken without medical assistance for thousands of years. Relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, and medications help many women through labor and delivery.

Our role as anesthesiologists is to help provide pain relief for those women whose discomfort is not adequately controlled by these techniques, or women who require a cesarean section.

An epidural is chosen for labor pain relief by more than 63% of women in the United States.  A small tube, or catheter is carefully threaded through a needle between the bones of the lower back. This allows a mixture of local anesthetic and narcotic to be injected, causing numbness over the lower abdomen and legs and providing pain relief. After an initial dose, further medication is provided by a constant infusion pump, so that pain relief may continue until delivery.

Cesarean section (C-Section) may be required to deliver the baby if labor does not progress as expected. If a labor epidural is already in place, further medication is injected through it to make the mother intensely numb. If a labor epidural is not in place or the epidural’s effectiveness is in question, a spinal anesthetic may be used.  A spinal anesthetic is very similar to an epidural.  A very fine needle is used to inject a small amount of local anesthetic into the spinal fluid, below where the spinal cord ends. This provides the intense numbness required for c-section much more quickly and reliably than an epidural, and using much less medication.

Regional anesthesia allows the patient to be awake and comfortable for the birth of the baby. General anesthesia is usually avoided where possible, unless the c-section is very urgent.

» Visit the Rochester Regional Health Website

 

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