Spinal Anesthesia and Its Role in Childbirth

There are many benefits of pain relief for childbirth, and several ways of administering it. Spinal anesthesia, also known as a spinal or intradural block, is one of the most common.
Spinal Anesthesia and Its Role in Childbirth

Last update: 26 April, 2018

Spinal anesthesia is used during childbirth to reduce and relieve pain.

All mothers feel anxious to some extent as their due date approaches. Fortunately, major advances in medicine have made childbirth much safer.

Even so, it’s important for new moms to be fully informed to make the best decisions when the time comes.

There are different types of anesthesia that doctors use during childbirth, depending on the circumstances. Some of the best known are:

  • General
  • Epidural
  • Local
  • Spinal anesthesia, also known as a spinal block or intradural block

What all of these types of anesthesia have in common is that they relieve pain.

When surgery is necessary, there are certain types of anesthesia that can also render a person completely unconscious and unaware of what is going on around them.

During a vaginal birth, spinal anesthesia reduces pain.

In the case of a cesarean section, it stops the uterus from contracting. Within 15 minutes of application, the middle and lower parts of the body lose all sensation.

The anesthetic blocks all stimulation of the nerves, making it impossible to feel or move the body parts that it affects.

Spinal anesthesia techniques

For doctors to administrate spinal anesthesia, the patient must lie on their side. A sterile needle is placed directly into the spinal column.

To do this, the anesthetist must find the exact position where two vertebra meet. The position of the needle may vary, depending on the desired effect.

Once the needle is in place, the specialist injects a local anesthetic through the skin, cellular tissue and ligaments, directly into the cerebrospinal fluid.

The spine is anesthetized, preventing pain signals from reaching the brain.

During this process, the patient must stay very still to avoid possible injuries.

If the mom-to-be feels extreme pain during the injection, the doctors must halt the process of spinal anesthesia.

In these cases, there may be a risk to the affected area.

Spinal Anesthesia and its Role in Childbirth

Benefits of spinal anesthesia for childbirth

Of all the different types of pain relief available for childbirth, spinal anesthesia uses the least anesthetic to achieve its effect.

This means that the amount of the drug present in the body after birth is very small.

A spinal block doesn’t cause damage to any organ or pose a risk for breastfeeding.

Spinal anesthesia goes to work more quickly than an epidural, so it is very useful in cases where every minute counts.

This type of pain relief also subsides more quickly, so that the mother is able to recover faster.

This means that new moms are able to bond with and care for their newborn free of the after-effects of anesthesia.

Another advantage of spinal anesthesia for patients is that there is no need for a catheter to be left in place. One injection is enough.

“Spinal anesthesia doesn’t cause damage to any organ or pose a risk for breastfeeding”

Possible side effects of a spinal block

In a few cases, side effects from this type of pain relief may occur. Fortunately, they aren’t usually serious.

Some of the symptoms of a bad reaction to anesthesia may include:

  • Headaches and intense migraines
  • Back pain
  • Nerve damage
  • Allergic reaction
  • Infection
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Low blood pressure
Spinal Anesthesia and its Role in Childbirth

A positive birth experience

Both spinal and epidural pain relief are widely used for childbirth.

The main difference between the two types is that spinal anesthesia consists of a single injection using a fine needle that reaches into the spinal column itself.

The effect on nerve signals is absolute, and the anesthetist may adjust its duration.

If the mom-to-be has been to all of her medical check-ups and is aware of her state of health, spinal anesthesia is completely safe.

As long as the patient isn’t allergic to the anesthetic agent, there are unlikely to be any counter-indications to the use of a spinal block.

When the time comes to choose pain relief for childbirth, a healthcare professional should explain the procedure and select the best alternative.

The goal is always to ensure the best and healthiest birth experience for mother and baby. Whether the mother has a vaginal birth or cesarean section, the result is the same: a new life.

For most mothers, the best childbirth experience is one without too much pain. However, some women still decide to give birth without pain relief.

Each one of us knows our own bodies, and has the right to make the choice.


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.