With most cesareans, a woman will receive an epidural or spinal block, in which local anesthetics are used to block pain in the torso. General anesthesia is reserved for rare, emergency situations.
If you already have an epidural in place, it will simply be topped off. Otherwise, you will most likely receive a spinal. With epidurals, a doctor inserts a hollow needle and a flexible catheter into the epidural space – the area between the spinal column and outer membrane of the spinal cord. The needle is then removed and the catheter is kept in place by taping it to the outside of the mother’s back. The catheter allows additional medicine to be given. With a spinal, the anesthetic medicine is injected directly into the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the spinal cord. Usually this is a one-time dose, administered without a catheter.
The epidural or spinal will block the sensation of pain from your chest down but it will not affect you mentally. During the surgery, you can ask the anesthesiologist to check with you first before administering additional medication that might affect your mental clarity such as a narcotic, or narcotic-like drug.
With the anesthesia some women can’t feel themselves breathing and this can be unsettling. If this arises, ask to be reassured and breathe together with your partner.
Your partner will not be allowed in the operating room when you get the anesthesia. A nurse will offer you assistance through the procedure and (hopefully) a hand to hold.
“I just remember being terrified of getting the epidural, especially because my husband could not be present at that moment. It helped tremendously that my doctor held my hands and helped me lean on her. That little bit of human contact made a world of difference.” Natasha
“I was shocked to learn that I would actually be walking into the O.R. myself, I’d had visions of being wheeled in on the bed I was sitting on and walking there was very weird. Mike was asked to wait outside for a while and I walked down a little corridor with the nurse, midwife and some other staff. It was when we walked into the O.R. and I saw the operating table in front of me that I lost it slightly. All of a sudden the excitement took a backseat and the fear and reality came to the surface, plus I knew it was time for the spinal block- the part I’d been most dreading. I started crying and telling the nurses and anesthesiologists that I didn’t think I could do this. They were so lovely and calmed me down enough that I could sit on the table and lean forward so they could administer the spinal block. I think my heart must have been going the fastest it ever had. I’m very scared of needles and the thought of having one in my spine scared the hell out of me. While I was sat panicking and explaining to the joking-to-take-my-mind-off-it nurses for the millionth time in my life that yes I have tattoos but yup, I still hate needles, I held hands with a lovely lady who I later found out was one of the surgeons, while muttering “I dont think I can do this.” I felt the sting of the injection in my back and it was so quick that I soon felt the familiar silliness I always feel after making a big deal out of injections!” Kelly Foulds
Keep in mind that while the spinal or epidural blocks pain, you will still feel pressure and pulling, and most likely, the birth of your baby.
“The midwife kept peeking over the curtain to see how things were progressing and told me they were getting close now and I’d feel some pressure on my tummy. None of the sensations I felt were too uncomfortable at all, it was kind of just a waiting game at that point. Then I heard the doctor ask the time and the midwife told me Amelie was ready to be born and Mike should take a photo. I’m so glad he did. It was 10:23 am and I felt a ‘pop’ as her head came out and my 7lb 1oz little girl was born! I knew it would take a few moments before she cried because babies born via cesarean don’t have the fluid squeezed out of their airway so it would be sucked out for her. Those seconds were so exciting as Mike and I looked at each other waiting. Then came a sound I will never, EVER forget, the best moment of my life: Amelie let out an almighty scream and I burst out crying out of happiness! That was MY baby! She was here, she was safe and I was a mum! It was amazing!” Kelly Foulds