Laughing Gas As An Option For Labor And Delivery


For those of us who are a little nervous when it comes to dental procedures, nitrous oxide (AKA laughing gas) has always been an option to take the edge off and help us relax. Now it also being used in many hospitals to help women through child birth.

Nitrous oxide was common place in the U.S. during the 1930’s to help women with labor pain. It fell from popularity as other options like general anesthesia, IV narcotics and epidurals took its place. Now we are seeing a resurgence of it in our country, while in other countries like Australia, New Zealand the UK it is commonplace with up to 80% of women using it for child birth.

Is it safe?

Research suggests that Nitrous Oxide has no effect on the fetus during the last trimester and poses minimal toxicity to the mother when given in small doses. Babies born from mother’s who used Nitrous Oxide have similar Apgar scores to babies that were not exposed to it.

What are the benefits compared to other options?

Nitrous Oxide does not require monitoring during labor, and the mother can use it when needed during contractions and then take the mask off, unlike epidurals or narcotics where the effects are lasting and once given the mother has little control.

Nitrous Oxide can also be given at any point during labor, whereas epidurals can’t be used if a mother in the late stages of labor.

“Approximately 35 to 40 percent of women who use nitrous oxide also get an epidural. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean the gas didn’t work. Rather, it can help women delay getting the epidural as their labor progresses and allow the baby to move down further” says Dr. Michelle Collins, a certified nurse-midwife and director of the nurse-midwifery program at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing in Nashville, Tenn.

Nitrous Oxide is also a viable option for women who are anxious about getting an epidual or about after birth procedures such as manual extraction of the placenta or repairing a torn perineum.

Are there side effects?

Some women experience nausea, dizziness and drowsiness with nitrous oxide. Since it is a drug, different people have different reactions to it, and for some it doesn’t work at all for pain management.

The bottom line is it seems to be a fairy safe option and alternative for mothers who wish to ease the pain of labor. As with any drug, it is recommended that women do their research and make an informed decision.

Nitrous oxide is gaining popularity again and most likely will be coming to a hospital near you.

What are your thoughts? Would you try it for labor pain?



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