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Mother's Author: Staff Editor Last Updated: Sep 7, 2017 - 10:06:33 PM

Happy Mother’s Day: 5 Facts About Anesthesia for Labor and Delivery

By Staff Editor
May 10, 2017 - 10:48:24 AM

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– A first-time mother-to-be gets a lot of advice from well-meaning friends and family members about everything from breastfeeding to which kind of diapers to buy. But when it comes to anesthesia, the nation’s 50,000 Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) and the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) want all new moms to know their anesthesia options for labor and delivery.

  • There are two lives to consider. Obstetric anesthesia is different from other types of anesthesia because there are two patients involved: the mother and baby. It is important that you take both individuals into account when considering anesthesia options.
  • Labor is unpredictable. Even the best-laid plans for experiencing natural (without anesthesia) childbirth might change if the baby’s health is endangered. Be flexible and prepared if a cesarean section (C-section) is called for; keeping mother and baby safe is the most important goal.
  • Participation can be key. An epidural anesthetic allows most women to fully participate in the birth experience (continue to feel touch and pressure) while relieving most, if not all, labor pains. The epidural is administered through a tiny tube called a catheter placed in the small of the mother’s back, just outside the spinal canal. The mother may feel a slight pressure with minimal discomfort when the catheter is placed. In most cases, the anesthetist will start the epidural when cervical dilation is four to five centimeters.
  • Spinals are felt faster. A spinal anesthetic is similar to an epidural, but it is administered with a needle into the spinal canal, again with minimal discomfort. As a result, its effects are felt much faster. The mother may feel numb and need assistance in moving during the delivery. Spinals are used sometimes for delivery by C-section or when forceps use is indicated.
  • Complications may require general anesthesia. General anesthesia is administered by giving anesthetic drugs intravenously and having the patient breathe anesthetic gases. This may be necessary if complications arise during delivery. General anesthetics can be administered quickly, so they are used when time is of the essence. General anesthesia also enables the uterus to relax if your obstetrical provider finds it necessary.

The overall safety of the expectant mom and her baby are a CRNA’s top priority. CRNAs are anesthesia experts and patient safety advocates who provide high quality anesthesia services combined with a personal concern for the health and welfare of the mother and baby.

To learn more about the anesthesia options for labor and delivery, visit the AANA website. The information is available in both English and Spanish.

About the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Founded in 1931 and located in Park Ridge, Ill., and Washington, D.C., the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) is the professional organization representing more than 50,000 Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) and student registered nurse anesthetists across the United States. As advanced practice registered nurses and anesthesia specialists, CRNAs administer approximately 43 million anesthetics to patients in the United States each year and are the primary providers of anesthesia care in rural America. In some states, CRNAs are the sole anesthesia professionals in nearly 100 percent of rural hospitals. For more information, visit and and follow @aanawebupdates on Twitter.


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