Fetal and maternal analgesia/anesthesia for fetal procedures

Fetal Diagn Ther. 2012;31(4):201-9. doi: 10.1159/000338146. Epub 2012 Apr 25.


For many prenatally diagnosed conditions, treatment is possible before birth. These fetal procedures can range from minimal invasive punctions to full open fetal surgery. Providing anesthesia for these procedures is a challenge, where care has to be taken for both mother and fetus. There are specific physiologic changes that occur with pregnancy that have an impact on the anesthetic management of the mother. When providing maternal anesthesia, there is also an impact on the fetus, with concerns for potential negative side effects of the anesthetic regimen used. The question whether the fetus is capable of feeling pain is difficult to answer, but there are indications that nociceptive stimuli have a physiologic reaction. This nociceptive stimulation of the fetus also has the potential for longer-term effects, so there is a need for fetal analgesic treatment. The extent to which a fetus is influenced by the maternal anesthesia depends on the type of anesthesia, with different needs for extra fetal anesthesia or analgesia. When providing fetal anesthesia, the potential negative consequences have to be balanced against the intended benefits of blocking the physiologic fetal responses to nociceptive stimulation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesia, Obstetrical* / methods
  • Anesthesia, Obstetrical* / methods
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Fetal Diseases / surgery*
  • Fetus / drug effects
  • Fetus / physiopathology*
  • Fetus / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Mothers*
  • Pain
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis