North Florida Anesthesia Consultants, P.A.

"Having a baby is stressful, and I was really worried about getting an epidural. My anesthesiologist was friendly and so quick that I barely felt the epidural go in. It worked great for the birth of our daughter. Thanks Dr. Crum!"

Obstetric Care

Having a baby is an exciting experience, but many women have concerns about what to expect when they go into labor. Be sure to discuss your options for managing labor pains with your OB doctor in advance.

If you decide to get an epidural to ease the pain of labor, a friendly NFAC anesthesiologist will meet you in your hospital room and explain everything including the risks. They have performed hundreds of epidurals for moms in labor. For mothers who are having a scheduled C-section, a slightly different type of anesthesia is used. Learn more below.

Preparing for Regular Labor & Delivery

When you are admitted to the hospital in labor, you will meet the nurse anesthetist and anesthesiologist that will be taking care of you. We will be glad to explain the procedure and any questions you have. Generally, we would place an epidural once you are having regular contractions and your obstetrician is happy with how your labor is progressing.

What is an epidural?

An epidural is a small tube called a catheter that is placed between the bones in your back near your spinal cord. This catheter is hooked up to a pump that infuses a local anesthetic that helps decrease the pain of labor.

Once the epidural is in place, it usually takes about 15 minutes to completely set up, and it will continue to run until your delivery. You will notice that your legs will feel warm and weak with the epidural, and your contractions will feel more like pressure rather than sharp pain. If your epidural needs to be adjusted in any way, a nurse anesthetist or anesthesiologist will be available.

After your delivery, the epidural catheter will be taken out. The epidural will wear off over the next few hours. Any weakness you have from the epidural will wear off at this point. Usually one of the anesthesiologists will check on your progress and answer any questions.

Preparing for a Scheduled C-Section

You will arrive a few hours before your scheduled C-section. Since you are having an elective surgery, you will be asked to not have anything to eat or drink after midnight. In the hospital, one of the nurses will check you in; verify your medical history, medications, and allergies; and start an IV. Also, some blood work may be sent off prior to your procedure.

You will have an opportunity to meet your anesthesiologist to discuss your anesthetic. Usually, a C-section is done under spinal anesthesia unless you have a contra-indication to a spinal anesthetic. Otherwise a general anesthetic will be given. A spinal is a safer way to have an operation done during pregnancy for both the mother and baby, and mom gets to remain awake for the birth of her new child.

What is a spinal anesthetic?

A spinal anesthetic is a technique to provide surgical anesthesia covering the abdomen and legs. Unlike an epidural, which involves leaving a small catheter in place, a spinal is a single shot of medication into the sack of fluid around the spinal cord. The spinal starts working in a couple minutes and lasts about 3-4 hours. During this time, your legs and abdomen will feel numb and weak.

Following your C-section, you will be taken to your hospital room. Since a spinal usually last about 3-4 hours, you will most likely not be able to move your legs for another couple of hours. Usually we place a small amount of narcotic in the spinal to help with pain control for the first day after surgery. Although you will have some soreness, this medication does help control the pain.

Pruritis is common side effect from the narcotic in the spinal anesthetic. While the narcotic helps with pain control for the first day after surgery, the medication can make you itch. The nurses will be able to give you some medication to help with this, but it should resolve after about one day.

Risks Specific to Obstetric Anesthesia

Although spinal and epidural anesthesia are very safe procedures, there are number of risks associated with them including the following:

  • Leg weakness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Spinal headache
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Nerve damage

All spinals and epidurals cause weakness in the legs as a side effect. Because of this, once an epidural is placed you will not be able to walk until the epidural or spinal wears off. We will watch your blood pressure closely as the spinal/epidural sets up, and we will give you fluids or medication to help your blood pressure if it briefly falls. Please let us know if you have a bleeding disorder or if you have been taking blood thinners during your pregnancy.

Unfortunately, a headache can sometimes occur after an epidural. This headache is usually worse when standing as opposed to sitting. It usually resolves on its own after about 1-2 weeks; however, there are medications that can help, or an epidural blood patch can be done to help with the symptoms.