Anaesthesia for Caesarean Section

PDF available: Anaesthesia for Caesarean Section – Patient Information Sheet
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Elective caesarean

This is usually performed with either a spinal anaesthetic or combined spinal and epidural.

On the day of surgery you will attend the Birth Unit as instructed by your team. After completing the admission paperwork you will be escorted to the designated care unit to get changed prior to surgery. The Anaesthetist will introduce him/herself and insert an IV cannula into your hand or your arm under local anaesthetic. You will then move to the operating room.

Here you will be asked to sit on the side of the operating bed whilst a spinal is placed. Local anaesthetic will be injected into your back and this is followed by the spinal anaesthetic.

Why a spinal vs a general anaesthetic? There is strong consensus that spinal anaesthesia is safer than general anaesthesia. A spinal has a lower risk of side effects for both you and your baby, it avoids the risks of general anaesthesia, and it offers superior pain relief in the postoperative period. Being awake allows for early bonding with your baby, including early skin to skin contact. General anaesthesia is usually reserved for those women who cannot undergo spinal/epidural, or in emergency situations.

Side effects/risks of a spinal include:

  • Slight discomfort during insertion
  • Shivering
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Sensation that you cannot breathe
  • Back discomfort for 1-2 days
  • Headache 1 in 100
  • Temporary neurologic injury 1 in 10,000
  • Permanent neurologic injury 1 in > 200,000

As the spinal is injected you will experience a warm feeling in your legs that moves up your body over the next few minutes. You will become numb up to the chest over the next 10-15 minutes.

After you lie down a urinary catheter is inserted into your bladder. You will feel your legs being moved and a bit of wet and touch but no discomfort. Your Anaesthetist tests your spinal block to make sure that it is working well, then your abdomen is cleaned with a sterile solution and draped. After this your partner comes in and sits beside you.

During your caesarean you will feel light touch
and pressure, but you should not feel sharp pain. Your Anaesthetist will be by your side to help guide you through the experience.

Caesarean video

Please watch this very informative video of a patient undergoing caesarean section at RNSH (English only).

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