Cesarean delivery is performed in about one in 5 births. The delivery may be planned (an elective cesarean) or an emergency (if the well-being of mother or baby is at risk).
Anesthesia is necessary for cesarean delivery, and the role of your anesthesiologist is to ensure your comfort and safety. A regional or a general anesthetic can be administered. The choice of anesthesia is determined by the clinical situation and by your medical condition.
Both general and regional anesthesia are safe for cesareans and have no significant effects on the baby.
Obstetric anesthesiologists prefer to administer regional anesthesia whenever possible, as it minimizes airway (breathing) complications. It is a safe and effective anesthetic that allows you to be awake and pain free during the operation.
During both regional and general anesthesia, safety monitors are applied to ensure that your vital signs are monitored and stay within the limits that are necessary for the well-being of the baby.
Spinal anesthesia is commonly the first choice for women who are not in labor but need a Cesarean delivery. Learn more about epidural and spinal anesthesia.
General anesthesia is used when regional anesthesia is not the best choice for medical or other reasons. For example, when an urgent cesarean delivery is required, there may not be enough time to establish a regional anesthetic. Certain bleeding conditions may also preclude the use of a regional block.
In addition, general anesthesia is used when a regional anesthesia fails to provide the proper amount of anesthesia necessary to keep you comfortable for the operation.
The medications used to induce and maintain a sleeping state in the mother are not harmful to the baby. In fact, they have minimal, if any, anesthetic effect on the baby. This is because the amount and type of medications used to induce sleep do not necessarily reach baby's brain in amounts required to make the baby sleepy. So although mothers are sleeping, babies are usually active and crying at birth.
Your vital signs (breathing, blood pressure, heart rate) can change with the administration of anesthesia. Your anesthesiologist carefully follows these vital signs to ensure that they stay within the limits that are necessary for the well-being of the baby.