All About Labor Medications

General Anesthesia

Most people have a good understanding of what "general anesthesia" means. Commonly referred to as being "put under," general anesthesia causes you to be unconscious. It also causes amnesia and causes relaxation of the muscles of the body.
 
Because of the risks to both mother and baby, and because most mothers want to be awake during the birth, general anesthesia is not used during labor or delivery except in emergency situations or if a C-section is required but a spinal or epidural isn't possible. If you absolutely don't want to remain conscious during the C-section, your anesthesiologist might agree to general anesthesia even if it's not medically necessary.
 
"Generals" are used for emergency C-sections because they work very quickly, as they are administered by IV or inhaled gas (or both). Think about how long and how "finicky" the process of getting a spinal or epidural usually is -- there just isn't time for it in an emergency, unless it's already in place.
 
Don't worry too much about general anesthesia. Typically, your doctor won't use it unless it's absolutely necessary and only if the benefits clearly outweigh the risks. Speaking of risks, the big ones for the mother include aspirating (breathing in) food, especially if the mother has eaten recently, and losing too much blood, since general anesthesia can decrease the ability of the uterus to contract, leading to bleeding after childbirth.
 
The risks to the baby, such as decreased blood flow to the baby and slow breathing after delivery, are greatest if the doctor can't get the baby out quickly. Once general anesthesia starts, it's usually a race against the clock to get the baby out as quickly as possible to help minimize the risks to the baby and because it's usually an emergency situation, anyway.
 
Pregnancy and Pain

Labor and Birth

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