Spinal block for labor pain

A spinal block is medicine you get in a shot you get in your lower back that numbs your lower body from the chest down. It’s good for fast pain relief. The shot blocks pain in the lower half of your body. 

You may want medicine like a spinal block to help with labor pain. Or you may want to have natural childbirth without medicine. Talk to your health care provider about all your pain-relief options to decide which is right for you. Write your pain-relief choices on your birth plan and share it with your provider and with the staff at the hospital or birthing center where you plan to have your baby. A birth plan is a set of instructions you make about your baby’s birth.  

How do you get a spinal block?  

While you’re sitting or lying on your side with your back curved outward, your provider inserts the needle into your lower back. He injects medicine into your spinal fluid. This is fluid that surrounds the spinal nerves in your lower back. Your provider can give you a spinal block during active labor or just before a cesarean section (also called c-section).

Your provider may recommend a spinal block if he needs to use instruments to help your baby out during vaginal birth. You also may get a spinal block along with another pain-relief method called an epidural. This provides you with immediate pain relief and the option of more medicine if you need it. 

What are some pros and cons of having a spinal block? 

Learning about pros and cons can help you decide if a spinal block is right for you. 

Pros

  • Pain relief starts right away.
  • You stay awake and alert.
  • The needle used to inject the medicine is thinner than the needle used for an epidural.

Cons

  • Pain relief lasts only 1 to 2 hours. 
  • It may provide uneven pain relief, affecting one side of the body more than the other. 
  • Your blood pressure may drop during a spinal, which may slow your baby's heartbeat. To prevent this, you get extra fluids through an intravenous (also called IV) tube. Your provider also may ask you to lie on your side.  
  • The medicine may make it hard for you to control or empty your bladder. You may need a catheter (a small flexible tube placed in the body) to help with this.
  • You may get a bad headache called a spinal headache. This is rare. But if it’s not treated, it may last for days. 
  • You may feel some soreness from the injection. This may last a few days. 
  • If you get too much medicine, it can affect your chest muscles. This is rare. But you may feel like you're having trouble breathing. 

Can you get a spinal block even if you try to have natural childbirth? 

Yes. Labor pain affects each woman differently. You may have mild discomfort or you may have intense pain. If you try natural childbirth and decide during labor to use pain medicine, it’s OK. You can ask for pain relief at any time during labor and birth.


Last reviewed: June, 2014

A spinal block is medicine you get in a shot you get in your lower back that numbs your lower body from the chest down. It’s good for fast pain relief. The shot blocks pain in the lower half of your body. 

You may want medicine like a spinal block to help with labor pain. Or you may want to have natural childbirth without medicine. Talk to your health care provider about all your pain-relief options to decide which is right for you. Write your pain-relief choices on your birth plan and share it with your provider and with the staff at the hospital or birthing center where you plan to have your baby. A birth plan is a set of instructions you make about your baby’s birth.  

How do you get a spinal block?  

While you’re sitting or lying on your side with your back curved outward, your provider inserts the needle into your lower back. He injects medicine into your spinal fluid. This is fluid that surrounds the spinal nerves in your lower back. Your provider can give you a spinal block during active labor or just before a cesarean section (also called c-section).

Your provider may recommend a spinal block if he needs to use instruments to help your baby out during vaginal birth. You also may get a spinal block along with another pain-relief method called an epidural. This provides you with immediate pain relief and the option of more medicine if you need it. 

What are some pros and cons of having a spinal block? 

Learning about pros and cons can help you decide if a spinal block is right for you. 

Pros

  • Pain relief starts right away.
  • You stay awake and alert.
  • The needle used to inject the medicine is thinner than the needle used for an epidural.

Cons

  • Pain relief lasts only 1 to 2 hours. 
  • It may provide uneven pain relief, affecting one side of the body more than the other. 
  • Your blood pressure may drop during a spinal, which may slow your baby's heartbeat. To prevent this, you get extra fluids through an intravenous (also called IV) tube. Your provider also may ask you to lie on your side.  
  • The medicine may make it hard for you to control or empty your bladder. You may need a catheter (a small flexible tube placed in the body) to help with this.
  • You may get a bad headache called a spinal headache. This is rare. But if it’s not treated, it may last for days. 
  • You may feel some soreness from the injection. This may last a few days. 
  • If you get too much medicine, it can affect your chest muscles. This is rare. But you may feel like you're having trouble breathing. 

Can you get a spinal block even if you try to have natural childbirth? 

Yes. Labor pain affects each woman differently. You may have mild discomfort or you may have intense pain. If you try natural childbirth and decide during labor to use pain medicine, it’s OK. You can ask for pain relief at any time during labor and birth.


Last reviewed: June, 2014