Nitrous Oxide Frequent Questions
What is it exactly?
Nitrous oxide is a mixture of 50% nitrous gas and 50% oxygen inhaled through a mask. It is used widely in dental offices, where most people know it as "laughing gas". It is popular in Europe for labor and the demand is growing here in the USA.
How does it work?
It is self administered by holding your mask and inhaling the gas as needed. Starting to inhale before a contraction begins helps the gas to reach its peak effect at about the same time as the contraction reaches its peak, providing the greatest relief.
How does nitrous oxide help with labor pain?
Each client will have a different experience when using nitrous oxide. Most women voice that nitrous oxide helped “take the edge off” of the contractions and allowed them to focus better during labor. Some reported more pain relief then just taking the edge off. This form of pain management may be helpful for people who regularly experience anxiety. Some women do not find nitrous oxide helpful or do not like the way that is makes them feel.
Nitrous oxide’s primary method of action is not complete pain relief. Nitrous lowers anxiety. This decrease in anxiety promotes relaxation and can help you feel less tense during contractions. By breaking the negative cycle of pain which causes increased stress which causes a higher perception of pain, nitrous oxide has been used successfully in many hospitals and birth centers around the world.
Does it have any side effects? How will I feel?
Nausea (usually after prolonged use), lightheaded/ dizziness, drowsy, and “feeling a little silly” are the most commonly reported side effects. Due to these possible side effects, a member of our team or a family member should always be in the room while using nitrous oxide. Nitrous is the only pain relief method used for labor that is cleared from the body through the lungs. Because nitrous oxide clears your system within a few breaths, all effects should go away quickly as soon as you remove the mask and stop breathing it. Having direct control over the nitrous gives you the ability to focus and be an active participant in your labor and delivery.
Is there any extra monitoring required?
There is no extra monitoring required above what is already implemented in labor.
Are there any negative effects on baby?
There are no known negative effects on baby. Your body clears it from both you and your baby’s system at the same time. If you are not feeling its effects, neither is baby.
How is nitrous oxidde administered?
Once you and your midwife have deturmined that nitrous could be benefitial in your labor, your midwife will set it up and explain how to use it correctly. It must be self administered breathing it in as you need it. No one may hold the mask for you. It can be stopped at any time if you do not like it or experience negative side effects.