Nitrous Oxide for Pain Relief in Labor

Apr 6, 2015 | Uncategorized

Sweet Child O’ Mine offers Nitrous Oxide, commonly called “laughing gas”, for pain relief in labor. If this is a service that you are interested in, please discuss it with your midwife.

– What is Nitrous exactly? Nitrous oxide use for labor pain is a mixture of 50% nitrous gas and 50% oxygen that is inhaled through a mask. It is used widely in dental offices, where most people know of it as “laughing gas”. It has been, and still is, widely used in Europe, Canada and Australia for labor.

– How does Nitrous work? You will hold the mask or mouth piece with a firm seal against your face and breathe in to release the flow of nitrous oxide. You will be in control of the amount of nitrous that you receive by the depth and frequency of the breaths you take.  This is unlike the dosing that you receive in the dental office. It is important to initiate the breath about 30 seconds before the contraction starts. This allows the gas to take effect and give the most relief at the peak of your contraction. You are then able to put the mask or mouthpiece down between contractions and use it as needed throughout labor. Nitrous helps you feel relaxed and is reported to decrease pain in labor by 50%. Most women voice that nitrous oxide helps “take the edge off” of the contractions and allows them to cope with labor better. Nitrous oxide helps in lowering anxiety, which helps you feel less tense during contractions.

– How Does Nitrous make you feel? Does Nitrous have any side effects? Most women report feeling more relaxed, less anxious, a little drowsy and light with less care or concern about their contractions and labor. Some women report feeling lightheaded, nauseated, or a little silly while using nitrous oxide. Due to some of these possible side effects, a member of our team or a family member should always be in the room while using nitrous oxide. These side effects should go away quickly within 3-4 minutes when you stop breathing the nitrous oxide. The nauseated feeling is a sign of using too much at one time, so you will quickly learn how to regulate it.

– Are there any effects on baby?  No, there are no known effects on the baby; nitrous is the only pain relief method used for labor that is cleared from the body through the lungs, so as soon as you pull the mask away, the nitrous effect is gone within 4 minutes.

– Can I still be out of bed and use nitrous? Yes; you may be out of bed and use the nitrous. As long as you are steady on your feet, you may be up and about in your room or in the birth tub. Someone should be with you at all times, however.

– Are there any reasons I could not use nitrous oxide?  Yes: you cannot use nitrous if you cannot hold your own facemask; if you have pernicious anemia or a B12 deficiency for which you take B12 supplements;  or if you have one of a very few other rare medical conditions.


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