General anesthesia for cesarean section delivery is associated with an over 50% increased odds of severe postpartum depression.pearl
- Jean Guglielminotti and Guohua Li.
- From the Department of Anesthesiology, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York.
- Anesth. Analg. 2020 Nov 1; 131 (5): 1421-1429.
BackgroundPrevious research suggests that, compared with regional anesthesia, general anesthesia is associated with increased odds of postoperative depressive disorders. No study has specifically evaluated the possible protective effect of neuraxial anesthesia for cesarean delivery on maternal mental health compared with general anesthesia. This exploratory study was designed to test the hypothesis that general anesthesia for cesarean delivery is associated with increased odds of severe postpartum depression (PPD) requiring hospitalization compared with neuraxial anesthesia.MethodsThis retrospective cohort study included cesarean delivery cases performed in New York State hospitals between January 2006 and December 2013. Exclusion criteria were as follows: (1) having >1 cesarean delivery during the study period; (2) residing outside of New York State; (3) having a general anesthetic for other surgery or delivery in the previous year or in the year after the index case. The primary outcome was the occurrence of PPD, and the secondary outcomes were: (1) the composite of suicidal ideation or self-inflicted injury (ie, suicidality); (2) anxiety disorders; and (3) posttraumatic stress disorders (PTSD). Primary and secondary outcomes were identified during the delivery hospitalization and up to 1 year after delivery. Adjusted odds ratios (aORs) and 95% confidence interval (CI) of adverse psychiatric outcomes associated with general anesthesia were estimated using propensity score matching.ResultsOf the 428,204 cesarean delivery cases included, 34,356 had general anesthesia (8.0%). Severe PPD requiring hospitalization was recorded in 1158 women (2.7/1000; 95% CI, 2.5-2.9); of them, 60% were identified during readmission, with a median of 164 days after discharge. Relative to neuraxial anesthesia, general anesthesia in cesarean delivery was associated with a 54% increased odds of PPD (aOR, 1.54; 95% CI, 1.21-1.95) and a 91% increased odds of suicidal ideation or self-inflicted injury (aOR, 1.91; 95% CI, 1.12-3.25). There was insufficient evidence in these data that general anesthesia was associated with anxiety disorders (aOR, 1.37; 95% CI, 0.97-1.95) or PTSD (aOR, 1.50; 95% CI, 0.50-4.47).ConclusionsGeneral anesthesia for cesarean delivery is associated with increased odds of severe PPD requiring hospitalization, suicidal ideation, and self-inflicted injury. If confirmed, these preliminary findings underscore the need to avoid the use of general anesthesia for cesarean delivery whenever possible, and to provide mental health screening, counseling, and other follow-up services to obstetric patients exposed to general anesthesia.
This large study of 428,204 New York caesarean section records (2006-2013), including 34,356 general anaesthetics (8%), investigated the association between mode of anaesthesia and post-partum depression (PPD). Other studies have shown an association between caesarean section (emergency > elective) and PPD. (Sun 2021, Xu 2017, and others), though this is the first to look specifically at general anaesthesia as a PPD risk factor.
Guglielminotti and Li found that general anaesthesia increased the odds of severe PPD by 54% (aOR 1.54, 1.21-1.95), and suicidal ideation by a massive 91% (aOR 1.91, 1.12-3.25), though not a significant increase in anxiety or PTSD.
The researchers discuss many potential causative factors, particularly known associations between GA CS & poor pain control, and subsequent pain & PPD – while also acknowledging the obvious potential for confounders. Of note patients receiving GA were older, more often non-Caucasian, had more co-morbidities, neonatal complexity, and lower socio-economic levels – also all independently associated with PPD risk.
In order to quantify the potential confounding contribution of emergency vs elective status, the researchers employed the novel E value:
To assess the impact of emergent cesarean delivery on our results, we calculated the E value associated with the aOR for the risk of PPD and suicidality. This relatively new metric takes into consideration 2 associations: (1) that between the confounder (emergent cesarean delivery) and the outcome (PPD); and (2) the association between the confounder (emergent cesarean delivery) and the exposure (general anesthesia).
An E value of 1.7 for the unmeasured confounder emergent cesarean delivery indicates that to explain away the association between general anesthesia and depression, either: (1) emergent cesarean delivery increases the risk of depression by at least 70%; or (2) emergent cesarean delivery is at least 70% more prevalent among general anesthesia than among neuraxial anesthesia. Either association is clinically plausible.
Keep it in perspective...
We already know that general anaesthesia for CS is suboptimal: it compromises both maternal experience and safety, but it should (hopefully) only ever be a chosen mode of anaesthesia when there is a true contraindication to regional anaesthesia – even at the modestly-high 8% GA rate among this New York cohort.
Just another reason to avoid GA CS when possible – but you already knew that, right?
"...general anesthesia is a potentially modifiable risk factor for PPD. This finding provides further supporting evidence favoring neuraxial over general anesthesia in cesarean delivery whenever possible."
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