Linda Murray: An epidural is not your only option for localized pain relief. There are a couple of other types of anesthesia that work similarly. One is a spinal block, which blocks pain in your lower body. What makes it different from an epidural is that it takes effect more quickly but lasts only a few hours. You’ll get full pain relief within just a few minutes because it’s a simpler procedure. And the medicine goes into your spinal fluid rather than a space surrounding the nerves of your spine. The relief lasts for less time because the medicine is given in a single injection rather than a continuous flow throughout labor. Only a tiny amount of medication reaches your baby.
A spinal block is easier to administer than an epidural so it can be a good option if you want pain relief late in labor or there’s not enough time for an epidural. Your doctor will probably recommend a spinal block if you’re having a planned c-section, since the medicine will numb you for more than enough time to perform the surgery. With a spinal block, you’ll need an IV and continuous monitoring and you won’t be able to get out of bed. The reduced sensation could make pushing more difficult increasing the chances of other medical interventions during labor.