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Can J Anaesth. 2004 Jun-Jul;51(6):586-609.

Effects on the fetus and newborn of maternal analgesia and anesthesia: a review.

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Department of Anesthesia, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.



To review the effects of maternal anesthesia and analgesia on the fetus and newborn.


An on-line computerized search of Medline, Embase, and the Cochrane Collaboration via PubMed was conducted. English language articles were selected. The bibliographies of relevant articles and additional material from other published sources were retrieved and reviewed.


No one test clearly separates the effects on the fetus/newborn, if any, of maternally administered medication during labour and delivery, or during surgery for non-obstetric indications. Supposition in this regard is limited in part by methodology previously used to study the transplacental passage of various drugs. This work needs to be repeated using a human model. Routine maternal supplemental oxygen administration is being questioned in light of research showing that free radical generation and oxidative stress are implicated as the underlying mechanisms in several neonatal conditions. Maternal hypotension is associated with neonatal acidemia and base excess correlates with neonatal outcome. Common postpartum analgesics transfer minimally into breast milk. Maternal or fetal surgery conducted during pregnancy necessitates modification of both anesthetic and surgical approaches. The key to resuscitation of the fetus is resuscitation of the mother: intra-uterine maneuvers, including perimortem Cesarean section, aim to reverse treatable causes of fetal asphyxia, restore fetal oxygenation, and correct fetal acidosis.


The well-being of the infant is a major criterion for evaluating the anesthetic management of pregnant women. Many tools exist to assist with this determination for the fetus, whereas few are available to evaluate the newborn.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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