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Nitrous Oxide For Pain Relief During Labor

What you need to know…

What is Nitrous Oxide?

Nitrous oxide used for labor pain is a mixture of 50% nitrous gas and 50% oxygen that is inhaled through a mask that a women holds to face and self-administers, as she wishes. A version of nitrous oxide is widely used in dental offices, where most people know of it as “laughing gas.” Nitrous oxide has been a common practice to help cope with labor pain in Europe, Canada and Australia for years.

How does Nitrous Oxide work?

Nitrous oxide reduces pain and anxiety. You hold your own mask, so you decide when to use it and how much you need. Patients start to breathe in the gas mixture about 30 seconds before a contraction begins allowing the pain relief to occur when the contraction reaches its peak. You can put the mask down between contractions and use it on and off as you choose.

How does Nitrous Oxide help with labor pain?

How well nitrous oxide works is different for every woman, but at least half of women who use it say it is helpful and they would choose to use it again. Some women say it takes the “edge off” of the peak of the contractions, enough that they are able to cope with their labor. Others report more pain relief. Nitrous oxide lowers anxiety. This helps you feel less tense during contractions, which may also help you cope with pain and complete a natural delivery.

How will I feel when I am using Nitrous Oxide?

Some women might feel drowsy, lightheaded, nauseated or a little silly while using nitrous oxide. These are common side effects that go away quickly when you stop breathing the gas. Rarely, women say they feel restless or confused.

Can Nitrous Oxide affect my baby?

There are no known effects on the baby. Nitrous oxide is the only pain relief method used in labor that is cleared from the body through the lungs. This means, as soon as the mask is pulled away, the impact of breathing the gas is gone within a few breathes.

Can Nitrous Oxide affect my labor progress?

No, nitrous oxide does not have any effect on your uterus or contractions.

Can I be out of bed and use Nitrous Oxide?

Yes. As long as you are steady on your feet, you may be up in your room with assistance from the nursing staff.

Must I choose between using Nitrous Oxide and having an epidural?

No, you may choose to use nitrous oxide prior to having an epidural or other IV main medications. They cannot be used at the same time. It is perfectly fine to use nitrous oxide first, and then move on to a different type of pain management.

You cannot use Nitrous Oxide if you:

  • Cannot hold your own facemask.
  • Have pernicious anemia (a vitamin B12 deficiency) and take vitamin B12 supplements.
  • Have received a narcotic medication within the past 2 hours prior.
  • Have taken Methadone, Suboxone, or Subutex within the last 5 days.
  • Have a few other rare conditions identified by your doctor or midwife that place you at risk.

There are only a handful of hospitals in the country that offer this option for pain relief to laboring women; we are so pleased that we are able to make this option available to you!

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