Learning About Anesthesia for Cesarean Birth

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What is anesthesia for cesarean birth?

During a cesarean birth, you will be given anesthesia so that you don't feel any pain. You may get spinal or epidural pain relief, or both. These block pain from an entire region of the body. Or you may get general anesthesia. This uses medicines that make you unconscious. It affects your whole body.

How is it done?

With spinal and epidural anesthesia, you'll get a shot to numb the skin on your back. Then the doctor or nurse will put a needle into the numbed area. For a spinal, you'll probably get a shot of numbing medicine near your spinal cord. For an epidural, usually a thin tube (catheter) is placed through the needle into the space next to the spinal cord. Then the needle is removed. The tube stays in your back to supply the numbing medicine.

General anesthesia may be given through a needle in a vein. Or it may be breathed in. During surgery, a specialist will watch you closely. They will adjust the medicines as needed to keep you safe.

What are the risks?

Major problems aren't common. But all types of anesthesia have some risk. For example, the medicine used in spinal and epidural anesthesia may affect your heart or breathing. In rare cases, nerve damage can cause long-term numbness, weakness, or pain.

General anesthesia can increase blood loss during surgery. Serious but rare risks of general anesthesia include breathing problems, pneumonia, and heart problems. Common side effects after surgery may include nausea and vomiting.

Some health conditions increase the risk of problems. You'll be asked about any health problems you have. You will discuss things that can raise your risk. Some of these include sleep apnea; obesity; and heart, lung, or liver disease.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.