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Nitrous oxide for childbirth

Learn about nitrous oxide and talk to your ObGyn or midwife to see if this option is right for you during delivery.

October 01, 2022

It’s no secret that childbirth can be painful. From the common epidural, to local anesthetics and drug free approaches like Lamaze, it’s important to discuss your pain relief options with your ObGyn or Midwife.

Fortunately, mothers in Kansas City now have a new option to consider when designing their birth plan — nitrous oxide. This innovative and safe method to manage the stress and pain of the labor and delivery is currently available at Research Medical Center and Overland Park Regional Medical Center.

What is nitrous oxide?

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is also known as “laughing gas”. It is a colorless, odorless gas that is commonly used by dentist for pain relief (but in a much higher concentration). For labor pain, nitrous oxide is used as a mixture of 50% nitrous oxide and 50% oxygen. It has been used to manage labor pain since the 1930’s, is widely used in Europe and is becoming more and more popular in the United States as a low intervention method for childbirth pain relief.

Is nitrous oxide safe for my baby?

Nitrous oxide is proven to be safe for both mom and baby. It is fast-acting, out of your system within a few minutes and does not cross the placental barrier to baby.

Studies show nitrous oxide doesn’t:

  • Prolong labor
  • Disrupt the release of oxytocin (which is important for early bonding between mom and baby)
  • Impact mom’s ability to breastfeed

How is it administered?

Nitrous oxide is self-administered. You will hold your own mask, decide when you need it and how much you need.

When you feel a contraction coming (about 30 seconds before), you will hold the mask over your nose and mouth and breathe in. This timing helps synchronize the gas’s maximum effectiveness with the peak of your contraction. After your contraction subsides, you can remove the mask and breathe normally.

How am I going to feel?

Like anything else, individual experience will differ. Many women describe nitrous oxide as “taking the edge off”. It can also help reduce anxiety.

Are there any side effects?

Some women report:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Light headedness

But these side effects will go away quickly after you stop using the gas.

Do I have to stay in bed when using nitrous oxide?

You are able to stand or use a birthing ball as long as you are steady on your feet and a nurse, midwife or physician is present.

Can anyone use nitrous oxide during labor?

You may not be a candidate for nitrous oxide if:

  • You’re unable to hold the mask to your face
  • You have a vitamin B12 deficiency

Nitrous oxide cannot be used conjunction with any other labor pain relief options. However, it is okay to start with N2O and switch to a different pain relief option, such as an epidural, later in the labor process. You should talk with your physician, OB or midwife about the best options for you when discussing your birth plan.

Find an ObGyn or Midwife.

October 01, 2022

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