What is spinal anesthesia?
Spinal anesthesia may be used for forceps delivery, cesarean section or
tubal ligation, but is generally not suitable for providing comfort during
To do a spinal anesthetic you may be asked to lie on your side or sit
up, depending on the circumstances. The anesthesiologist numbs the skin
and inserts a small needle between two of the lower backbones, well below
the level of the spinal cord where there is any chance of injury. The needle
enters the spinal fluid and medication is placed there. You will soon notice
that your legs and hips become numb. You will not be able to move your
legs while the anesthesia is working, and any pain from labor contractions
will disappear. The numbness will last one to two hours and then wear off.
There are two reasons why spinal anesthesia is not used for pain relief
during labor: (l) no plastic tube is left in place, so it is not possible to give
more medication over the course of a long labor; and (2) the lower half of
the body becomes so numb with spinal anesthesia that you cannot push the
baby out at the time of delivery.