Intended for healthcare professionals


ABC of labour care

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: (Published 06 November 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:1270

Obstetric anaesthetists are important in labour care

  1. Dominic Aldington, specialist anaesthetic registrar,
  2. Diana Brighouse, consultant anaesthetist (
  1. Shackleton Department of Anaesthesia, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton SO16 6YD
  2. Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London SW10 9NH

    EDITOR—We wish to rectify an important omission in the ABC of Labour Care—that is, the role of the obstetric anaesthetist on the labour ward. The report on confidential inquiries into maternal deaths in the United Kingdom in 1994-6 highlights the importance of multidisciplinary care for pregnant women and establishes lack of teamwork as an identifiable cause of substandard care.1

    The leading causes of maternal death in the United Kingdom are thromboembolism, pregnancy induced hypertension, amniotic fluid embolism, and haemorrhage. Publications from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists emphasise the need for early involvement of anaesthetists in the management of major haemorrhage,2 and an anaesthetist has an essential role in managing other life threatening obstetric emergencies. Many sick mothers are now admitted to intensive or high dependency care units. Early involvement of the anaesthetist on the labour ward facilitates earlier transfer of sick mothers; delay in transfer has been identified as a cause of substandard care in …

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