Laughing Your Way Through Labor

When evaluating the various pain relief options that you have for labor, it's important to consider every option. One choice that many people do not realize is an option is Nitrous Oxide. Otherwise known as "laughing gas," this pain relief option may be familiar to some from the dentist's office. It's also used at some hospitals for laboring women, and it's certainly an option worth looking into.

How Is Nitrous Oxide Used During Labor?

Nitrous Oxide is inhaled through a mask during labor. It provides short term pain relief. It does not take the pain of contractions away completely, but tends to numb them. You hold the mask yourself over your face at the onset of each contraction and you breathe in very deeply. Women report that the gas helps them to feel a sense of well-being and to be better able to cope with the contractions. It only takes about 30 seconds to feel the effects from the gas, and it wears off as soon as you take the mask off. For the best effect, the woman needs to start breathing it in as soon as the contraction starts. This will ensure that the maximum effect of the gas is felt at the peak of the contraction.

Advantages of Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous Oxide is a great choice for women who want to take the edge off of their contractions, but who don't want a larger intervention such as an epidural. The gas takes effect quickly and wears off quickly. It is not known to have any large effect on the baby, although it does pass over the placenta while you are using it during labor. Nitrous Oxide allows women to feel in control of their contractions, since they monitor the use of the gas and the length of the use. They can place it on their own mouths and take it off as they need to, allowing them to feel that they are in control of the pain medication.

Disadvantages of Nitrous Oxide

While some women find this to be a helpful tool during labor, others find that it causes them to feel light-headed and nauseous. Some women report that the gas makes them feel tired, while others report having a dry mouth. You may also have a tingling in the fingers while using the gas. The tingling is due to over-breathing and can be prevented with reminders from your midwife, doula or doctor.

Nitrous Oxide is a good option for many women who want some intervention during labor. It is important to check with your hospital or birthing center, however, to see if they administer Nitrous Oxide. Not all locations do, and you don't want to go into labor assuming that you'll use a pain medication that will not be available to you!


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