Nitrous oxide is commonly used for pain relief during labor. It is also commonly known as laughing gas, which leads to some misconceptions about how it is used in a birth center setting. The gas mixture doesn’t really make you laugh, and here’s more of what you need to know about it!

What is Nitrous Oxide?

Nitrous oxide, as the name suggests, is a 50/50 mixture of nitrogen and oxygen gases. It is usually administered via inhalation so you breathe it in. Once you inhale the gas, it reduces anxiety levels and promotes feelings of relaxation and well-being.

How does it work?

It is both an analgesic and an anesthetic depending on the dosage you use. At lower doses, such as those used in dentistry or during labor, it works as an analgesic. This means it helps reduce pain perception.

 At much higher doses, such as those used during surgeries, nitrous oxide works as an anesthetic agent. This means it can lead to total loss of consciousness.

 It does not work by numbing the pain-causing parts. In most cases, you still may be able to feel a reduced level of pain. But thanks to the effects of nitrous oxide, you won’t feel as anxious or bothered because of it.

Benefits of Nitrous Oxide

Here’s why nitrous oxide makes a good choice for analgesia:

  • It’s great for mothers that don’t want any needle-administered pain medication
  • It allows for patient-controlled pain relief so mothers are only inhaling as much as they need
  • It works to reduce anxiety levels
  • It doesn’t affect breastfeeding
  • It doesn’t affect the baby
  • It can be easily discontinued when needed

Is it safe in pregnancy?

Nitrous oxide is usually safe to use in pregnancy and poses no threat to the mother or the baby. However, like every other medication it may have some adverse effects you need to look out for:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of consciousness due to overdose

If you have any other questions about nitrous oxide or other forms of analgesia during labor, be sure to ask your healthcare provider and they’ll be happy to assist you!