Anaesthesia is used to relieve pain during operative delivery, that is, a caesarean section or instrumental vaginal birth. All women who have a caesarean section receive anaesthesia, except in the rare case of post-mortem delivery. More than one type of anaesthetic can be administered.

The figure shows a bar chart of women who had an instrumental vaginal birth or caesarean section by anaesthesia administration status and a range of topics for 2019. The figure also shows a line graph of the trends of anaesthesia administration by topics between 2010 and 2019. In 2019, 140,174 women, or 96%, who had an operative delivery had anaesthesia.

In 2019, most mothers who had a caesarean section had a regional anaesthetic (69% spinal, 18% epidural or caudal) and 5.5% had a general anaesthetic (note that some mothers had both).

Most mothers who had an instrumental vaginal birth had an anaesthetic. A regional anaesthetic was most common (62% epidural or caudal and 3.6% spinal), followed by a local anaesthetic to the perineum (23%).

Women who had a vaginal instrumental birth using forceps (93%) were more likely to have anaesthesia administered than women who had a vacuum extraction (86%).

First-time mothers were slightly more likely to have anaesthesia administered than women who had given birth before (for example, 3.6% of first-time mothers had no anaesthesia, compared with 2.0% of mothers who had previously given birth 4 or more times).

For related information see National Core Maternity Indicator General anaesthetic for women giving birth by caesarean section