One of your primary concerns about C-sections is likely to be pain relief. You will be able to remain completely pain-free during a C-section and will have an anesthesiologist who is completely devoted to making sure you remain comfortable.
An epidural provides pain relief through a catheter that is inserted into the epidural space in the spine, and left in. One of the biggest benefits of an epidural is that it can be used for vaginal delivery or C-section. Because the pain relief can be increased and controlled as needed, it works for both types of deliveries. If you come to the hospital and intend to give birth vaginally, you may choose to have an epidural for pain relief. If the decision is made that you need a C-section, you won't need another needle in your back; instead, the amount of your epidural is simply increased. In most circumstances you must stick with the epidural for the surgery and cannot have a spinal after an epidural has been placed. If general anesthesia is necessary (for an emergency C-section), it is safe after an epidural.
The main drawback with an epidural for C-sections is that it may not provide complete pain relief. There may be areas that are not completely numbed. An important benefit of the epidural for C-sections is that it can be left in place after the surgery and used for post-surgical pain relief.
Spinals are administered by an anesthesiologist through an injection directly into the spinal fluid. They take effect immediately, but they only last sixty to ninety minutes and cannot be readministered during the surgery. If for some reason the surgery does not go as planned and cannot be completed in that time frame, general anesthesia would be necessary.
The spinal completely numbs your mid- to lower body. The numbness may spread to the chest area so that you can no longer feel yourself breathing; however, you do not stop breathing. This sensation can be a bit alarming, but it is in no way dangerous. There is a rare condition called a high spinal in which the muscles of respiration are paralyzed. The patient would then be given general anesthesia.
During spinals and epidurals, you can experience nausea and may begin to vomit. This generally occurs after the baby is delivered. The anesthesiologist will administer medications to help with this, and the feeling usually passes quickly. Report any feelings of nausea right away.
General anesthesia is most often used for C-sections when there is an emergency and your physician has to get the baby out quickly. The other types of anesthesia take time to administer, but general anesthesia can be administered very, very quickly. If you have general anesthesia you will sleep through the entire birth and won't feel anything. Some women experience nausea after awakening from general anesthesia, but this is reduced with the use of antiemetic drugs.