Anaesthesia and Pregnancy

What is an anaesthetist?

Specialist anaesthetists are fully qualified medical doctors who hold a degree in medicine and spend at least two years working in the hospital system before completing a further five years of accredited training in anaesthesia. In Australasia doctors who have completed all the training requirements in anaesthesia are then awarded a diploma of fellowship of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA), which can be recognised by the initials FANZCA after their name. Doctors who trained outside of Australasia may hold slightly different qualifications but have undergone similar extensive post-graduate training to practice as specialist anaesthetists.

Doctors who are training to become specialist anaesthetists are called registrars, and work under the supervision of a specialist anaesthetist.

What services do anaesthetists provide to pregnant women?

Anaesthetists provide a wide range of medical services and are part of multidisciplinary teams providing health care to patients. Some examples of obstetric anaesthesia services provided by anaesthetists at Bay of Plenty DHB are given below:

  • Anaesthesia for surgical procedures related to delivery (e.g. Caesarean Section or instrumental delivery), or for surgical procedures related to complications of pregnancy
  • Pain relief in labour, particularly advanced pain relief techniques such as epidural analgesia
  • Assessment and delivery planning (as part of a multi-disciplinary team) for women with other health conditions or high risk pregnancies.
  • Respond to emergencies in the delivery suite as part of a multi-disciplinary team

Where can I find more information?

Often anaesthetists meet women for the first time while they are in labour, and sometimes anaesthetic services can be required as an emergency. In these circumstances it can be difficult to have a detailed discussion regarding the procedures that anaesthetists perform, including the risks, benefits, and alternative options. Taking the time to learn about anaesthetic services and procedures before they are required can allow for a more informed consent process.

You can watch a video about pain relief options in labour below:

Detailed information about pain relief options in labour, along with information on what to expect if you require anaesthesia for a Caesarean Section can also be found at the Labour Pains website.

You can also download the following pdfs:

Patients who have significant concerns or feel that they need to be assessed by an anaesthetist prior to delivery (e.g. because of other health problems, previous problems with anaesthesia, or family history of serious reactions to anaesthesia) are encouraged to discuss this with their LMC, who can refer them to the anaesthetic pre-assessment clinic if needed.

About three times a year the Department of Anaesthesia at Tauranga Hospital run information sessions on advanced pain relief options in labour. Please ask your LMC about this if you would like to attend one of these evening sessions.


Last updated: August 29, 2018