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Pain Management During Labor & Delivery and Postpartum - Pregnancy Planner

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Welcome

The Department of Anesthesiology welcomes you to Women & Infants Hospital. We care about you and your family and want to make sure that you are well cared for during your labor, delivery and recovery. That’s why we’re here 24 hours a day, seven days a week for you.

The Department of Anesthesiology

The Anesthesiology Department consists of physician anesthesiologists, certified nurse anesthetists and registered nurses. Women & Infants Hospital was one of the first hospitals in the country to provide around-the-clock coverage for obstetrical patients, and we maintain a record of excellence with respect to patient care and safety.

Goals

Sensitive to the needs of each individual patient, we recognize that some women may not need any pain relief medicines; whereas, other women may want some medicines to help relieve their pain. There are a number of choices available for you. The choice of anesthesia for your labor and delivery is important for your comfort and safety, as well as for the well-being of your baby. The members of the Anesthesiology Department are here to make this time especially memorable for you and your loved ones. Whether or not you choose to have anesthesia, a member of the Anesthesiology Department will be present during your delivery to be sure that you and your baby do well.

Types of Anesthesia for Labor and Delivery

  • Intravenous or intramuscular medication
  • Local anesthesia
  • Epidural anesthesia
  • Combined spinal epidural anesthesia

Intravenous or intramuscular medicine

Your obstetrician or midwife may order a medicine to be given by injection into your intravenous line or your muscle. The medicine will help ease the discomfort of labor but may make you sleepy.

Local anesthesia

Your obstetrician or midwife may give you an injection of local anesthesia into the birth canal during delivery. This will cause numbness of the birth canal and surrounding areas, making you more comfortable.

Epidural anesthesia

This is the most common form of anesthesia to make patients comfortable during labor and delivery at Women & Infants Hospital. The anesthesiologist will place a small, soft tube into the epidural space in your back and then inject some local anesthesia into the tubing. This will cause a tingling, warm, numb sensation of your belly and legs. Your legs may become heavier over time, and you will not be able to get out of bed. The procedure usually takes a few minutes to complete, and the anesthesiologist will make you as comfortable as possible during the procedure. Many women will continue to feel a tightening or pressure sensation that is not painful after having the epidural.

Combined spinal epidural anesthesia

This procedure is similar to having an epidural but involves injecting a small amount of medicine into the spinal space before placing the tube into the epidural space. The effect of the medicine will be similar to that of the epidural; however, the medicine acts much faster. You will feel a tingling, warm, numb sensation of your belly and legs. Your legs may become heavier over time, and you will not be able to get out of bed. The procedure usually takes a few minutes to complete, and the anesthesiologist will make you as comfortable as possible during the procedure. Many women will continue to feel a tightening or pressure sensation that is not painful after having the combined spinal epidural.

Types of Anesthesia for Cesarean Section

  • Epidural anesthesia
  • Spinal anesthesia
  • General anesthesia

Epidural anesthesia

If you have an epidural placed for pain relief during your labor it can be used for a cesarean section. The anesthesiologist will give you a stronger medicine through the epidural. Your belly will become very numb and your legs very heavy. You will feel some pressure during the cesarean section, but you will be comfortable.

Spinal anesthesia

If you do not have an epidural in place, the anesthesiologist will perform a spinal anesthesia for your cesarean section. The anesthesiologist will inject medicine into the spinal space which will cause your belly to become very numb and your legs very heavy. The medicine acts very quickly. You will feel some pressure during the cesarean section, but you will be comfortable.

General anesthesia

In emergency situations or if you are not able to have an epidural or spinal, the anesthesiologist will give you medicines into your intravenous to make you sleep during the cesarean section. You will not be awake for the surgery and will not feel anything during the surgery.

Other Strategies for Pain Relief

Other options to help control your pain during labor and delivery include:

  • Jacuzzi
  • Showers
  • Birthing balls
  • Rocking chairs
  • Breathing techniques
  • Back rubs
  • Music

Learning More about Anesthesia for Labor and Delivery

The Department of Anesthesiology holds two to three classes per week for anyone who is interested in learning more about the choices of anesthesia for labor and delivery. You can have all your questions answered by an anesthesiologist and an anesthesiology nurse during this time. There is no charge. Please call the Department of Anesthesiology at 401-274-1100, extension 1565 or 1566 to learn about the program and to enroll.

This information has been prepared by the members of the Department of Anesthesiology at Women & Infants Hospital and was developed as a guide for patients.

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