Having a Spinal Block for C-Section and I'm Terrified!
Spinal anesthesia is the most common type of anesthesia for cesarean section. I have other hubs on the subject of spinals, but wanted to address the specific fears of a reader facing a cesarean section with spinal anesthesia. So...
This hub is in response to a specific question about spinal for c-section. The question, quoted directly from ruthp6 is as follows:
"I am having a spinal block for a c section. Nevee had a surgical procedure and terrified hardly sums up my fears. I am concerned about meningitis, not being able to breathe, the lower portion of my back is very sensative and I am deathly afraid of getting a spinal. I know thar I will be numbed before the actual injection, but it hardly seems enough. Will Emla cream stop the pinch of the needle? One last thing, I know that much is off limits because of baby, but is there any sedative that I can have before I waddle to the OR? So very nervous!!!!!" (copied as written).
I wanted to answer you thoroughly and the system told me my answer was too long and prompted me to write a hub about it. So, here it is. I hope you find this and feel better after reading. I have answered the basic questions and will add info on exact statistics and so on when I find them, but wanted to get the answer out to you and others who may be wondering the same thing.
Rest assured, complications are rare. No one should tell you they CAN'T happen, but they are rare.
Again, this is not a comprehensive article about spinals or their potential benefits or risks. It is just meant to address specific questions. And, as always, no medical advice is given or implied in my online articles.
I'm Terrified of Spinal Complications.
The things mentioned in the question are risks of spinal anesthesia. They are very, very rare though. I have no idea how many thousands of spinals I've placed and I've never had/seen an infection or other serious complication. They happen, but rarely.
Risk of Meningitis after Spinal Anesthesia
Infection: The risk of infection (meningitis) is estimated at lower than one in 25,000 to 50,000 spinal anesthetics. Even in the cases reported, the circumstances around the infection were not clear (did the woman have pre-existing infection, fever, immune system problems, etc). The exact incidence is not really known, but these cases are published individually as case reports when they occur as they are sufficiently rare.
Breathing Problems with Spinal Anesthesia
Breathing: You will likely FEEL like you are not breathing well because the sensory nerves around your ribs can get numb. This makes it so that your brain can't consciously tell that your chest is moving. Some women don't notice this, BUT women who are really scared or expecting something to be wrong will notice and sometimes get a little freaked out. The anesthesiologist WILL be watching your breathing and oxygen level, so let them know if you feel this way so they can reassure you.
Does it Hurt to Get a Spinal for C-Section?
Pain: The injection for the numbing medicine is a tiny, tiny needle. EMLA probably won't make much difference and they won't want you to put anything on the injection site before the procedure anyway. It feels like a pinch and burn (I have had it several times) and it really isn't bad. If you are very fearful of this part, let the anesthesiologist know so they can warn you or have you take a deep breath, or hold the nurse's hand. It only lasts a few seconds- honestly.
The spinal needle, likewise, is super-thin- much thinner than the IV needle used to start the IV. Usually, you won't feel this except some pressure. Occasionally, you will feel a zing or electric-like feeling in one side or the other (sometimes, you just feel a cramp). This doesn't mean anything is wrong, just tell the anesthesia doc so they can adjust their position if needed.
Why Can't I Be Sedated for My Cesarean?
Sedation: I can tell you that you most likely will not receive a sedative, as this is really, really an unnecessary risk (the goal of anesthesia for c-section is to minimize risk).
Do tell the anesthesia doc that you are so nervous. We sometimes forget that while we do this all day long, every day, that patients do not!! If they know you are freaked out, hopefully he or she will take the time to help allay your fears.
Practice relaxation and breathing, starting now. When you start to feel anxious about the spinal or c-section, pay attention to your breathing and muscles. When you notice your breathing speed up and your muscles tighten, take control of them. Focus on slowing your breathing, think calming thoughts about how it will all be worth it when you see your baby and how lots of women do it and you can too. Relax your muscles. Focus on a part of your body at a time and command your muscles in that area to relax. Practice this and take this new skill with you on surgery day. You will be surprised how much it can help.
For the Practioner
For More Information...
- Post Spinal Anesthesia Side Effects
Post spinal anesthesia side effects can result from the needles, the technique or the medications used. Most side effects are minor and short-lived, but knowing that they are not harmful can be very reassuring if you are going to receive a spinal ane
- Insider's Guide to Spinal Anesthesia: What you should know.
Spinal anesthesia is commonly used for cesarean sections, knee and hip replacements and other surgeries on the lower half of the body. Learn the most important facts about spinal anesthesia, what to expect, side effects and potential complications to
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