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Spinal Block for Childbirth

Topic Overview

Spinal anesthesia (spinal block) is similar to epidural anesthesia, except the anesthetic is injected in a single dose into the fluid around the spinal cord. A spinal block may also be called a saddle block. It numbs the area that would come into contact with the saddle of a horse.

Like an epidural catheter, a spinal block must be administered by an anesthesia specialist. Spinal anesthesia causes complete loss of feeling and muscle control below the waist. It is usually used only for an assisted delivery (such as a cesarean section or a delivery with forceps). Most women cannot push effectively after a spinal block.

The benefit of a spinal block is that it works quickly. But the side effects may include lowering of the mother's blood pressure during delivery, occasional headache after delivery, and temporary urinary difficulty. Infection at the injection site is a rare complication.

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Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised November 13, 2013

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