Childbirth is one of the most painful natural life processes that a mother has to go through. It is not surprising, then, that pain reduction through anesthesia induction has been adjunct to childbirth. Some women opt to undergo the natural process without any anesthetic intervention, but most would readily choose to be inducted.
Expectant mothers may choose to be inducted through general, spinal or epidural anesthesia. Epidurals are the most common form of pain relief, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Furthermore, statistics show that half of the number of women giving birth in hospitals utilizes epidurals. As with other anesthetic procedures, certain risks have been associated to anesthetics during childbirth including respiratory arrest during labor and delivery, and the concentration of high levels of anesthesia in the central nervous system.
A recent biomedical science research published in the journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, Anesthesiology, however, says otherwise.
Dr. Robert D’Angelo, biomedical science researcher from Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina, led the study. D’Angelo and the team used data gathered from the Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology’s (SOAP’s) Serious Complication Repository (SCORE) project, which is a large database containing delivery statistics and lists down and tracks complications. Through this, they were able to analyze the rates of serious complications which were associated with anesthesia induction.
From the year 2004 – 2009, more than 257,000 deliveries, including vaginal and caesarian, were found to have had utilized epidural, spinal or general anesthesia during childbirth. Of these, only 157 childbirth complications were recorded and only 85 of them were linked to the use of anesthesia.
Additional data that the biomedical science research team gathered included the most common anesthesia-related complications: 1 in 15,435 resulted in unrecognized spinal catheter, 1 in 10,042 resulted in respiratory arrest in labor and delivery, and 1 in 4,336 deliveries resulted in high neuraxial block.
D’Angelo and his team were satisfied with the results. However, although a small number of anesthesia-related complications was observed, the researchers still advise utmost vigilance to anesthesiologists to be able to identify serious complications and be able treat them if need be.
The findings of the research may be used in constructing a national obstetric anesthesia complication registry, as a component of the Anesthesia Incident Reporting System. The team points out that through this, anesthesiologists would be notified properly and would be able to advocate improved patient safety by the creation and revision of educational materials.