General anaesthetic for women giving birth by caesarean section

Clinical commentary

Regional anaesthesia (or epidural) is the most common method of providing anaesthesia for caesarean section (94%) (AIHW 2019). Regional anaesthesia is safer for mother and baby than general anaesthesia (ANZCA 2018). When general anaesthesia is used, the most common indications are urgency, maternal refusal of regional techniques, inadequate or failed regional attempts, and regional contraindications including coagulation or spinal abnormalities (Shroff 2004). Obstetric indications, such as placenta praevia, were considered absolute indications for general anaesthesia however, there are now indications that general anaesthesia may not be the only option (McGlennan & Mustafa 2009).

Indicator specifications and data

Excel source data tables are available from the Data tab.

For more information refer to Specifications and notes for analysis in the technical notes.


  • AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2019. Australia’s mothers and babies 2017–in brief. Perinatal statistics series no. 35 Cat. No. PER 100. Canberra: AIHW.
  • ANZCA (Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists) 2018. Risks and complications of anaesthesia. Viewed July 2018.
  • Shroff R, Thompson A, McCrum A & Rees S 2004. Prospective multidisciplinary audit of obstetric general anaesthesia in a district general hospital. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 6:641–646.
  • McGlennan A & Mustafa A 2009. General anaesthetic for caesarean section. Continuing Education in Anaesthesia Critical Care & Pain 9(5):148–151.