Skip to Main Content


  • Image not available. The most common morbidities encountered in obstetrics are severe hemorrhage and severe preeclampsia.
  • Image not available. Regardless of the time of last oral intake, all obstetric patients are considered to have a full stomach and to be at risk for pulmonary aspiration.
  • Image not available. Nearly all parenteral opioid analgesics and sedatives readily cross the placenta and can affect the fetus. Regional anesthetic techniques are preferred for management of labor pain.
  • Image not available. Using a local anesthetic-opioid mixture for lumbar epidural analgesia during labor significantly reduces drug requirements, compared with using either agent alone.
  • Image not available. Pain relief during labor requires neural blockade at the T10-L1 sensory level in the first stage of labor and at T10-S4 in the second stage.
  • Image not available. Continuous lumbar epidural analgesia is the most versatile and most commonly employed technique, because it can be used for pain relief for the first stage of labor as well as analgesia/anesthesia for subsequent vaginal delivery or cesarean section, if necessary.
  • Image not available. When dilute mixtures of a local anesthetic and an opioid are used, epidural analgesia has little if any effect on the progress of labor.
  • Image not available. Even when aspiration does not yield blood or cerebrospinal fluid, unintentional intravascular or intrathecal placement of an epidural needle or catheter is possible.
  • Image not available. Hypotension is a common side effect of regional anesthetic techniques and must be treated aggressively with phenylephrine or ephedrine, supplemental oxygen, left uterine displacement, and intravenous fluid boluses to prevent fetal compromise.
  • Image not available. Techniques using combined spinal-epidural analgesia and anesthesia may particularly benefit patients with severe pain early in labor and those who receive analgesia/anesthesia just prior to delivery.
  • Image not available. Spinal or epidural anesthesia is preferred to general anesthesia for cesarean section because regional anesthesia is associated with lower maternal mortality.
  • Image not available. Continuous epidural anesthesia allows better control over the sensory level than “single-shot” techniques. Conversely, spinal anesthesia has a more rapid, predictable onset; may produce a more dense (complete) block; and lacks the potential for serious systemic drug toxicity because of the smaller dose of local anesthetic employed.
  • Image not available. Risk of systemic local anesthetic toxicity during epidural analgesia and anesthesia is minimized by slowly administering dilute solutions for labor pain and by fractionating the total dose administered for cesarean section into 5-mL increments.
  • Image not available. Maternal hemorrhage is one of the most common severe morbidities complicating obstetric anesthesia. Causes include placenta previa, abruptio placentae, and uterine rupture.
  • Image not available. Common causes of postpartum hemorrhage include uterine atony, a retained placenta, obstetric lacerations, uterine inversion, and use of tocolytic agents prior to delivery.
  • Image not available. Intrauterine asphyxia during labor is the most common cause of neonatal depression. Fetal monitoring throughout labor is helpful in identifying which babies may be at risk, detecting fetal distress, and evaluating the effect of acute interventions.


This chapter focuses on the practice of obstetric anesthesia. Techniques for analgesia and anesthesia during labor, vaginal delivery, and cesarean section are presented. The chapter ends with a review of neonatal resuscitation.


Anesthetic Risk in Obstetric Patients


Although the majority of women of childbearing age are healthy and ...

Want remote access to your institution's subscription?

Sign in to your MyAccess profile while you are actively authenticated on this site via your institution (you will be able to verify this by looking at the top right corner of the screen - if you see your institution's name, you are authenticated). Once logged in to your MyAccess profile, you will be able to access your institution's subscription for 90 days from any location. You must be logged in while authenticated at least once every 90 days to maintain this remote access.


About MyAccess

If your institution subscribes to this resource, and you don't have a MyAccess profile, please contact your library's reference desk for information on how to gain access to this resource from off-campus.

Subscription Options

AccessAnesthesiology Full Site: One-Year Subscription

Connect to the full suite of AccessAnesthesiology content and resources including procedural videos, interactive self-assessment, real-life cases, 20+ textbooks, and more

$995 USD
Buy Now

Pay Per View: Timed Access to all of AccessAnesthesiology

24 Hour Subscription $34.95

Buy Now

48 Hour Subscription $54.95

Buy Now

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.