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Using Nitrous Oxide for Pain Relief During Childbirth

There are a variety of options for birthing people to use to manage labor pain. Medications can be given by injection or intravenously, and there are complementary options, such as labor support, coaching, massage and hydrotherapy.

In addition to these methods, there is another option for pain relief during childbirth. Also known as “laughing gas,” nitrous oxide is an odorless and tasteless gas that can help manage pain and anxiety during labor and delivery. It is delivered through a small face mask that can be taken on/off as needed. 

“Nitrous oxide during childbirth is gaining popularity. Patients and providers in our community requested we offer this service, and we listened. We are excited to now be offering this as an additional pain relief option,” says Margie Bridges, Perinatal Clinical Nurse Specialist at the Overlake Childbirth Center

How does it work?

Nitrous oxide works by relaxing the central nervous system to dull the perception of pain but does not completely block it. It takes effect within a minute and leaves the system quickly when discontinued. 

What are the benefits?

Nitrous oxide has many benefits. It is:

  • Odorless and tasteless.
  • The least expensive pain relief option for labor and delivery.
  • An option you can choose to use before any other methods for pain relief. 
  • Self-administered: You control administration, which may positively influence satisfaction/birth experience.
  • Not going to limit mobility, so you can walk or move around during labor.
  • Not going to slow labor or cause significant risk to the baby.
  • Safe to breastfeed after delivery.

Should I use nitrous oxide during childbirth?

The decision to use nitrous oxide during labor is completely up to you. Be sure to have a conversation with your obstetrician or midwife at your next prenatal appointment to discuss this pain relief option.

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