Anesthesia in Pregnancy: Types and Risks

Anaesthesia in Pregnancy – Is It Risky?

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. H.V. Deepthi (Anesthesiologist)
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Anaesthesia can be a blessing for the patients as well as doctors. It numbs down the pain experienced significantly for the patient making surgery a less painful affair. And for doctors, it comes as a blessing as the patient doesn’t have to be restrained by the doctor and nurses and the doctor can focus on the surgery. But if you’re pregnant and require a general or spinal anaesthesia, you’re likely to ask yourself if it would be safe during pregnancy. And you can find the answer to that question here!

Is Anaesthesia Safe During Pregnancy?

The female body is wonderfully designed and has evolved in such a way that pregnancies can be handled by it. However, sometimes there can be many emergency situations which need immediate extraction of the baby and may require a caesarean section.

In such cases, anaesthesia is used. The downside of this is that they put the mother and foetus at risk because of complications such as miscarriage. Therefore, the use of it is only in life and death situations and should be avoided especially in the first trimester.

Types of Anaesthesia

There are two kinds of anaesthesia:

1. Local Anaesthesia

  • Used by a dentist for minor oral intrusions.
  • Epidural anaesthesia (local anaesthetic during pregnancy) is used during delivery for labour analgesia. This is injected through a tube into the epidural space situated in the lower back.
  • Spinal anaesthesia is used during delivery as well as knee replacements and hip surgery. In this, the anaesthetic is introduced in subarachnoid space, into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
  • Injected into a localized or specific area.
  • Side effects include minor bruising, dizziness and pins and needle sensation, shivering in that area.
  • Its effects on the infant are nil and risk during cesarean section is considerably less.

2. General Anaesthesia

  • Administered by liquid injected directly into your bloodstream or gas that is given through a mask.
  • The anaesthetist stays beside the operating table throughout the procedure.
  • Side effects include nausea, shivering, sore throat and difficulty in passing urine.
  • The effects are instantaneous.

Anaesthesia During Labour and Delivery

Anaesthesia is used for pain management at this stage. An epidural or spinal is given only after the onset of active labour and before full dilation. General anaesthesia, on other hand, is administered in the case of caesarean birth as a last resort.

Anaesthesia During Labour and Delivery

Risks of Anaesthesia in Pregnancy

In general, surgeries should be avoided during pregnancy due to the undue stress levels it will bring on the expectant mother and the unborn child. Some of the risks that anaesthesia pose during pregnancy are given below:

1. Risks for Pregnancy

There is an increased risk of spontaneous miscarriage due to the use of anaesthesia during the first trimester.

2. Risks to the Mother

The body starts adapting to the pregnancy, and the use of anaesthesia may not be able to cope with the effects of it on the already altered state of the mother leading to internal bleeding and other complications due to miscarriage. If surgery cannot be avoided, it should be performed in the second trimester of pregnancy, in between week 13 and week 28. And spinal anaesthesia should be preferred over general anaesthesia.

3. Risks to the Foetus

The risks to the baby include premature birth, low birth weight, and infant mortality.

There are many facets to be examined before using anaesthesia on a pregnant woman. Anaesthesia is best avoided during pregnancy, but if it’s necessary, check with your doctor about which type would be the safest for you and your baby.

Also ReadPainless Delivery – Procedure, Pros & Cons

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