What mothers know, and want to know, about the complications of general anaesthesia

Acta Anaesthesiol Scand. 2012 May;56(5):585-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-6576.2011.02608.x. Epub 2012 Jan 19.


Background: Informed consent should be sought when performing anaesthesia on pregnant patients. There is no standard for consent for general anaesthesia on the delivery suite. This study was designed to assess post-partum women's awareness of the complications of general anaesthesia and the level of risk at which they felt these risks should be discussed.

Methods: One hundred and fifty parturients from two London hospitals who had undergone uncomplicated vaginal deliveries were asked on the first post-partum day about their knowledge of the potential complications of general anaesthesia for obstetrics. They were also asked about the level of risk at which they would wish to be informed before consenting to a general anaesthetic procedure.

Results: The knowledge of the risks of general anaesthesia among the parturients was poor, with awareness, allergy, nausea and vomiting being known by over 50%. Knowledge of difficult intubation and its consequences, dental damage, malignant hyperpyrexia and suxamethonium apnoea was known by less than 30% of the respondents. The level of risk at which mothers felt they should be informed was variable, with 50% wishing to know all risks up to 1 : 1000, and 19% wishing to know risks of greater than 1 : 1,000,000. All known risks were wished by nearly 30% of those questioned.

Conclusions: Anaesthetists must be flexible when providing information to mothers about general anaesthesia and should provide more information to mothers if they wish it.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anesthesia, General / adverse effects*
  • Anesthesia, Obstetrical / adverse effects
  • Delivery, Obstetric
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • London
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk
  • Surveys and Questionnaires