1. Except in emergencies, spinal anesthesia is usually preferred over general anesthesia for cesarean births. General anesthesia has no long-term effects on babies, but if they are exposed to it in the uterus for more than a few minutes, they can be quite sleepy at birth. Spinal anesthesia works quickly and lasts for only a couple of hours. It is very safe for the baby.

    The thought of a needle in the back can be frightening. I hope that by explaining the process of spinal anesthesia, I can ease your fears about it. An anesthesiologist administers a spinal anesthetic by placing a specially designed needle through the membrane outside your spinal fluid in the lumbar region of your back (well below the end of your spinal cord.) The doctor injects a numbing medication directly into the spinal fluid. A spinal differs from an epidural in that, with a spinal, the needle passes through the membrane where the spinal fluid is; with an epidural, it does not. Also, with an epidural a tiny catheter is inserted. This allows more doses to be given for longer pain relief. Both procedures produce numbing from the breasts or belly button down to your toes.

    Fewer than 4 percent of women who have spinal anesthesia get a “spinal headache,” which occurs after a small amount of spinal fluid leaks out. This problem is corrected with a “blood patch,” in which a small amount of the woman’s own blood is injected into the area.

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Ask Tori RN®, by registered nurse and resident author of The Joy of Pregnancy, is a helpful and reassuring resource for parents-to-be.