Epidural and Spinal Anaesthesia: All You Need To Know

Everyone knows that giving birth can be extremely painful. At the same time, there are a couple of lucky women who don’t experience pain that is unbearable – they may just experience pain similar to menstrual cramps. When the pain gets too much to handle, doctors can offer some remedy to the pain.   

They will not directly administer general anaesthesia unless the condition is serious because general anaesthesia can also put the baby to sleep. This is not desirable during labour. Instead, they will opt for either epidural or spinal anaesthesia.

People often use the terms epidural and spinal interchangeably but they are not the same. Epidural anaesthesia is injected between the spinal vertebrae and the spinal fluid. It is most commonly used in the United States for pain relief during delivery. It takes more time to take effect. First, the area where the needle is to be inserted is numbed. They then insert the catheter through the needle and inject the anaesthetic through the catheter. It is left secured on the back in case more medicine is required.     

Spinal anaesthesia, on the other hand, is injected directly into the spinal fluid. It takes effect immediately, unlike epidural anaesthesia. It also does not require a catheter to be inserted in the body. Again, the area to be injected is first numbed with a local anaesthesia. However, spinal anaesthesia tends to be stronger than epidural anaesthesia which means that you will not be able to feel anything.

A mother may not be able to feel her legs until the anaesthetic wears off in case of spinal anaesthesia. With epidural, you can feel something – since it is a regional anaesthetic – but you most definitely won’t feel the pain.

These days, the practice of using a combined CSE (combined spinal-epidural) is getting popular. It takes effect fast and will not require using as much of spinal anaesthetics. All of these anaesthetics are only meant to make delivery easier for the mother.

CSE is used before a c-section delivery so that the mother does not feel the pain. Epidurals can be used for a vaginal birth to reduce the pain. The mother would still be aware of the birth and would be able to move around as well. Epidurals and spinal are otherwise used for a c-section delivery itself.

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