Obstetrics - Epidural & Spinal Anesthesia

Howard County Anesthesia Associates, PA will work closely with your obstetrician to help you through the birthing process by offering pain relief to make the labor and delivery of your baby as safe and comfortable as possible.

We want you to make informed decisions about the care you will receive during the delivery of your baby, including the kind of anesthesia you choose. The following information about the state-of-the-art pain relief techniques we routinely use here at Howard County General Hospital will help you decide how you want to manage your labor pain.

The benefits of epidural and spinal anesthesia over systemic narcotics

There are two basic approaches for using medication to manage labor pain. One method uses systemic narcotics, such as Nubain®, which acts throughout your “system” or body by traveling through the bloodstream to the brain to “numb” the pain. The other methods – epidurals and spinals – are called regional anesthesia because the medication is administered into a specific region of the body to numb pain.

Systemic medications produce drowsiness and sedation in addition to pain relief while the epidural or spinal medication acts only locally, so you will be comfortable, alert and able to fully participate in the birthing process. Epidurals and spinals also require a smaller dose of medication to relieve the pain, resulting in less medication being transferred to your baby than with use of systemic narcotics.

Having an epidural catheter in place also provides “insurance” against the need for general anesthesia in the event of an emergency Cesarean section. Your anesthesiologist will simply administer a stronger local anesthetic through your epidural catheter. (read more)

Epidural versus spinal or combined spinal-epidural techniques

Both epidural and spinal anesthesia involve blocking the transmission of pain signals close to their point of origin and each technique has its particular advantages and disadvantages. One advantage of the epidural is that medication can be administered continuously through an epidural catheter (a thin plastic tube inserted into the space next to the spinal cord), providing pain relief throughout labor and delivery or after surgery should a cesarean be necessary.

Spinal and combined spinal/epidural techniques have their own distinct advantages. Because spinals involve injecting a numbing medication directly into the spinal fluid, they take effect more quickly than epidurals and produce a more pronounced pain relief.

The type of pain relief technique you will receive will be tailored to suit your needs.