National Institute for Health Research Signal – General surgery is mostly safe during pregnancy
Routine data from English hospitals show that general surgery during pregnancy, such as removing the appendix or gallbladder, does not commonly harm mother or baby. This suggests that surgery in pregnant women is generally safe, but that mothers could be provided with more specific estimates of the risks.
This large observational study assessed the “real world” outcomes of nearly 6.5 million pregnancies at hospitals in England over a 10-year period.
Women who had surgery during pregnancy for a condition unrelated to pregnancy were slightly more likely to experience miscarriage, preterm or caesarean delivery or a long stay in hospital. Babies were more also slightly more likely to be low birthweight or stillborn.
However, the actual risks of negative outcomes were small. For example, 287 pregnant women would need to have surgery for one to experience a stillbirth and it was not possible to balance the benefits of their surgery against this as procedures were so varied.
There isn’t any guidance on surgery in pregnancy in the UK, so these findings may be useful when discussing surgery and the associated risks with pregnant women.
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