A spinal block is a type of regional analgesia which is also used for pain relief during labor and birth. It is used with a stronger medication which is an anesthetic to give complete numbness and loss of sensation prior to a Cesarean section. At times a doctor may decide to use a spinal block if it is expected that you will have a difficult forceps or vacuum birth.
The procedure for administering the spinal block is very similar to that of an Epidural. You are asked to sit or lie on your side and the medication is injected into the sac of fluid below the spinal cord. The injection is given in between a contraction as you are expected to lie still and not move. It is extremely effective and will usually take effect within a matter of minutes.
A spinal block unlike an Epidural can give complete pain relief for about 60-90 minutes. In an Epidural you may be left with some sensations. Some women have reported feeling pain inspite of an Epidural. The injection is usually given only once and a very small dose is administered. With an Epidural a catheter is in place and top up doses are required. Spinal blocks are generally used for short term needs. It has little or no effect on the baby and the mom is awake and alert which means that you can hold your baby and breastfeed immediately after birth.
A Spinal block may decrease your blood pressure and you will need to be monitored constantly. The baby will also need monitoring to ensure steady fetal heart tones. You may feel tightness in the chest and experience a sensation of breathlessness. As spinal block provides total pain relief it effectively does not allow you to move and hence you lose the advantage of movement which can slow the progress of labor. You will also need a catheter to empty the bladder as you will not have any sensations in this region. There is a possibility of headache for a few days post delivery especially when you are in the upright position.
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