Nitrous Oxide

Stand & Deliver Family Birth Center offers nitrous oxide as pain medication during labor.

While nitrous oxide is not yet mainstream in the United States, it is not a new method. It has been used during labor for more than one hundred years across the globe. Nitrous oxide is routinely used in Canada, Sweden, Australia, Finland, and the United Kingdom. While studies on nitrous oxide usage specifically based in the United States may be limited at this time, nitrous oxide has been widely recognized as safe to mother and baby. In most cases, nitrous oxide does not come with significant side effects for the mother, either. Any possible side effects are usually minimal and can be quickly resolved.

What To Expect

  • Nitrous oxide is self-administered through a mask, so using nitrous oxide is as simple as holding the mask to your face and inhaling.

  • The nitrous oxide is administered just prior to a contraction to allow the gas to take peak effect during the contraction.

  • It is cleared through the lungs, so once you remove the mask and breathe normally for a few seconds, the effects of nitrous oxide dissipate.

  • It is possible to feel tired, dizzy, or nauseated while using nitrous oxide; however, once you discontinue use, the effects should resolve quickly.

  • While nitrous oxide may dull your pain and relax you, it does not cause a loss of sensation. Because it does not numb you, using nitrous oxide means you can still move freely during labor, as long as you are stable on your feet.

  • Nitrous oxide does not affect the progression of labor.

  • The use of nitrous oxide also does not necessitate any additional monitoring, making it a noninvasive option.

Questions

Nitrous oxide use for labor pain is a mixture of 50% nitrous gas and 50% oxygen that is inhaled through a mask. It is used for relaxation and pain reduction during childbirth and labor. It does not numb you or completely eliminate pain, but it can take the edge off and make you feel less nervous about pain. Our clients that have used nitrous oxide report pain reduction. In some cases, such as during long, difficult labors, it can help mothers avoid hospital transfers.

No, there are no known effects on the baby; nitrous is the only pain relief method used for labor that is cleared from the body through the lungs, so as soon as you pull the mask away, the nitrous effect is gone within 4 minutes. It does not affect infant alertness or breastfeeding. Per a study conducted in China, infant Apgar scores are not adversely affected by maternal use of nitrous oxide. After birth, infants quickly eliminate any remaining nitrous oxide present in their systems by breathing.

Yes; you may be out of bed and use the nitrous. As long as you are steady on your feet, you may be up and about in your room or in the birth tub. Someone should be with you at all times, however.

Yes; you cannot use nitrous if you cannot hold your own facemask; if you have pernicious anemia or a B12 deficiency for which you take B12 supplements; or if you have one of a very few other rare medical conditions.