Nitrous oxide adverse effects
You might have heard a lot about the epidural as a form of pain relief… but you may not have heard as much about the return of a different kind of pain relief -nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas.
Commonly used in the UK and throughout the rest of Europe, nitrous oxide is self administered and is made of a 50/50 blend of nitrous oxide and oxygen. Surprised it wasn’t offered to you before? That’s because St. Mary’s and St. Francis are one of the few hospitals, nationwide, and the only ones in Virginia to offer nitrous oxide as a form of pain management to birthing women.
Rmom: Nitrous oxide for labor has been around for quite a long time (over 50 years) why has it recently gained popularity?
Dr. Hirata: I think nitrous got overlooked in the United States for years because births became hospital-based procedures and stronger alternatives, like epidurals and twilight sleep, became available. More recently, couples are realizing the risks associated with over medicated, highly procedural deliveries. Allowing space, time and more natural support for the birth process frequently leads to beautiful, safe vaginal births. Simpler can be better. This movement includes nitrous oxide or laughing gas as another tool to offer aid in the natural birth process.
Rmom: Does the use of nitrous oxide prohibit me from walking, using the tub, or using other labor positions?
Dr. Hirata: Nitrous oxide is quick acting and very simple to use. The laboring woman has full control of how much gas she’d like to use as she holds a mask to her face and only breaths as much gas as benefits her. The gas can be used intermittently or regularly over a short span of time or several hours. The gas is cleared by a tube attached to the wall so it limits use to about 10 feet. That’s why it can’t be used in tub or shower. The woman can use it in bed, standing, on a birthing ball and right up to the time of birthing or getting an epidural. It’s use is very flexible especially because it clears from her body very rapidly.