Anaesthetist – it’s even hard for us to spell and it’s our job title! Unless you are one yourself, most people, including our fellow healthcare colleagues, don’t really know what we do. Lots of people don’t think we’re doctors – we are! Others think we just put people to sleep – we do a little bit more than that. Lastly, some people think they’ll only meet us if something has gone wrong, we promise this isn’t true. We’re here to take you through what we as anaesthetists really do and when and where you may come across us in your pregnancy journey and birth.

When might you meet us?

There are many people who will never in their entire life meet an anaesthetist – pregnant women included. We are, however, available 24/7 365 days a year in every single hospital in the UK that has an emergency department, labour ward or intensive care. You may meet us at various points throughout your pregnancy:

Obstetric Anaesthetic Clinic a.k.a. High Risk Pregnancy Unit

Occasionally pregnant women are invited to meet an anaesthetist fairly early on in their pregnancy, usually in the second trimester. The reasons why you may get asked to see us include any complicated pre-existing medical conditions e.g. bleeding disorders; spinal conditions or a previous complicated birth. Another common reason is if you are significantly overweight as this can pose some potential difficulties in labour. We like to meet women with slightly more complicated circumstances early in order to talk through options available to them and together make a plan suitable for their individual needs.

Planned caesarean section

In some circumstances the best way for your baby to be brought into the world is by a planned (elective) caesarean section. An anaesthetist will meet you either a few days before your planned delivery or on the morning of your exciting day. We will discuss your medical history with you, how this pregnancy has been for you and experience of previous anaesthetics. Based on our chat we will explain to you what the best option will be to deliver your baby pain free. This may be an injection in your back (known as a spinal) or a spinal combined with an epidural or putting you to sleep. We use all of these methods to help deliver baby safely and  we will explain more about these in our later blogs.

In labour, emergency caesarean section or other procedure

Probably the most common thing that we do to help ladies in labour is to provide pain relief in the form of an epidural. This is one of many ways that you can make yourself comfortable in labour and we will go into more detail about these in later posts.

As labour is different for each and every woman and baby there are some situations when you may need to come to the operating room (a.k.a theatre) in order to deliver your baby safely and quickly. Some of the more common reasons would be if baby needs a helping hand with forceps or a suction cup or if the safest way to get baby out is by a caesarean section. We will be there at every step of the way to make sure you and your baby are safe, comfortable and as calm as possible in these situations.

We plan to go into much more detail about all these things in the coming months but if anyone has any specific questions about anything we’ve mentioned please do get in touch, we’d love to hear from you!