Our group of anesthesiologists provides all of the obstetrical anesthesia care at St. Joseph Hospital and Skagit Valley Hospital.  We are experts in pain relief during labor, and work with you and your obstetrical provider to develop a plan that suits you best.  If you need a C-section, one of our physicians will discuss your options for anesthesia and will be with you during the surgery to ensure your comfort and safety.  An anesthesiologist is always available to answer any questions or address any concerns you may have regarding pain relief during labor, epidurals, or C-sections.  Just ask your nurse to contact us and we will be happy to talk with you.

Pain Relief During Labor

Just like every mother and baby are different, so is every birthing experience.  Some labors are more painful than others because of the baby’s position or size, the strength of the contractions, or the duration of the labor.  There are many different techniques for treating pain during labor, including breathing and relaxation techniques, intravenous medications, nerve blocks, epidural analgesia, and spinal blocks.  It is a good idea to learn about these options before you go into labor, so you can incorporate them into your birthing plan.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists has an excellent web page on pain relief during labor and delivery.  You can read it by clicking here.

Anesthesia for C-Sections

There are two types of anesthesia used for C-sections—regional and general.  Regional anesthesia refers to the use of an epidural or a spinal block and is used for most C-sections.  General anesthesia means you will be put off to sleep with intravenous medications and kept asleep with a combination of IV medications and anesthesia gas.  Because most mothers prefer to be awake during the birth, regional anesthesia is used more often then general anesthesia.  However, general anesthesia takes effect faster than both spinals and epidurals, making it the anesthestic of choice during emergencies.  It is also used when a woman has a medical condition which excludes her from receiving an epidural or spinal.

Scheduled C-sections

After you are admitted to the hospital, you will meet with the anesthesiologist assigned to your surgery.  The two of you will discuss your medical history and options for anesthesia.  Spinal anesthesia is used for most scheduled C-sections because it is easier to place and more reliable than epidural anesthesia.  However, another type of anesthesia may be more appropriate for you based on your medical history.

You will then go back to the operating room and be connected to our monitors and have the spinal placed.  Over the next few minutes, you will get numb from your toes to your chest.  After the nurse washes your skin and puts up the surgical drape, the surgeon will test to make sure you are completely numb before begining surgery.  You are allowed to have one companion in the operating room with you once the anesthesia has taken effect.  It is normal to feel some pushing or tugging during the surgery even if the spinal is working perfectly.

Once your baby is delivered, he will be taken over to the warmer to be cleaned off and quickly examined by the nurse.  He will then be wrapped in a blanket and brought over for you to hold.  We try to let you bond with your baby as long as possible, but he may need to go to the nursery for closer observation.  After the surgery has ended, you will go back to your room to recover.  Your nurse will monitor your vital signs and make sure you are comfortable as the spinal anesthesia wears off.