Nitrous oxide (N2O, commonly known as laughing gas) is already used as a labor analgesic in many Western countries, but it is infrequently used in the United States as an analgesic option for giving birth. Some parts of the country have already started exploring the effects of N2O as labor analgesia because it has its advantages compared to epidurals. Medical City of Frisco Labor & Delivery will offer this service with its opening in late 2018. Whether a woman is still in her early pregnancy stage or approaching her due date, she should know her choices for pain relief during labor.
To help a woman make a better choice for her analgesic, we have enumerated the benefits of using nitrous oxide below.
Relieves anxiety. Nitrous oxide is an anxiolytic – a drug used to relieve anxiety – so women who choose this as a labor analgesic have a significant reduction of anxiety compared to epidurals which have no effect on it. Inhaling nitrous oxide enhances the feeling of euphoria and relaxes the laboring woman.
Self-administered. With the use of nitrous oxide, the woman has a choice of how much she wants to take in and when she wants to stop. It is delivered via a hand-held face mask in intermittent (irregular) intervals, so it does not require an IV line or catheter. In order to maximize the best results of nitrous oxide, practicing the correct breathing technique is important with the first few contractions.
No side effects. Nitrous oxide can be used as an analgesic during all three stages of labor as well as during post-delivery procedures (i.e. repair of any laceration) without any adverse effects to the woman or the baby. More women are interested in less invasive analgesic methods, arguing that nitrous oxide provides effective pain relief during labor and should be made more widely available in the United States.
Variable pain reduction. Administration of nitrous oxide as an analgesic does not reduce pain as much as epidurals do, so pain might still be present during labor but many women expressed their satisfaction with the relief that it provided.
Reduces the need for neonatal resuscitation. Using nitrous oxide lessens the chance of performing neonatal resuscitation on newborns to help it breathe and stabilize its heartbeat. It doesn’t affect infant alertness at birth so the mother and the baby experience a better early bonding period.