Drugs that alleviate or block entirely the distress of childbirth are of two kinds, analgesics and anesthetics. Analgesics, such as aspirin, meperidine, or a barbiturate, di- minish pain but leave the patient partly conscious. As soon as labor is well established, they 111 ay be administered orally, intravenously, or by deep muscle injection. The intravenous route is effective most rapidly. Meperidine sometimes is used in conjunction with scopolamine, a drug that causes a state of amnesia. The patient tends to fall into a deep sleep, but stirs when contractions occur and is capable of being aroused occasionally to participate in the birth process. The skillful anesthetist is careful not to offer the mother too much pain relief, for drugs may slow the progress of labor, or depress the breathing of the unborn child.
The Doctor removes mucus from the baby’s mouth.
For the contractions of actual delivery, as distinct from those of labor, an anesthetic may be used. Anesthetics are either general or regional in their action. General anesthetics include nitrous oxide, cyclopropane, ether, halothane, and thiopental sodium. These are gas, volatile, or intravenous; they are used with oxygen and in various combinations with each other. General anesthesia causes temporary but complete unconsciousness. It works by absorption into the blood stream and therefore may cross the placenta and affect the fetus. Regional anesthetic techniques include local infiltration with such agents as procaine or transvaginal pudendal block, paracervical block, caudal anesthesia, lumbar epidural block, and spinal or “saddle block” anesthesia.
Some regional anesthetics are put only into the tissue surrounding the birth canal, and others are put into the spine and affect more of the pelvic area, blocking the nerve paths and cutting off obstetric pain sensations. The mother remains alert to the birth process. Generally, with these methods, 80 percent of women experience complete relief of pain. Local anesthesia is carried in the bloodstream in lesser amounts and therefore does not affect the child as much.