Preparing for that big day when labor kicks in can be frightening and nerve wracking. Lots of pregnant moms I’ve met all had questions about the whole labor experience and what to expect. The most burning question of all was if labor was going to hurt, and how to manage pain during labor.
If you have these questions too, I would love to assure you that your concerns are valid. The truth is labor is a painful experience, considering an entire human is making its way out of your body. In the past, lots of pregnant moms had to go through this pain with little to no relief at all. Luckily, in these times, labor doesn’t need to be painful as a lot of pain-relieving medications have been deemed safe and effective for use during labor.
One of the pain relief meds used for labor is nitrous oxide, popularly called the laughing gas. This then brings us to the big question: Does nitrous oxide help with pain? The answer is yes. Nitrous oxide is a colorless and odorless gas that is administered for pain relief in several clinical situations including labor.
- Is nitrous oxide safe to use during labor?
- Will nitrous oxide make me laugh uncontrollably?
- Benefits and risks of nitrous oxide
- Side effects of nitrous oxide
Table of Contents
Is Nitrous Oxide Safe to Use During Labor?
Nitrous oxide is safe to use during labor and does not cause any harm to you or your baby. Research has shown that nitrous oxide is less addictive than other pain meds and, in some cases, gets the job done without needing to take other pain medications.
How is Nitrous Oxide Administered?
Nitrous oxide is a gas, and as such cannot be swallowed or injected. Nitrous oxide is best given via a face mask attached to a cylinder containing nitrous oxide. So basically, to take nitrous oxide, you will have to put the nose mask over your nose and breathe in the gas. The gas is breathed in for about 30 seconds to one minute before your next contraction so that the effect of the nitrous oxide would have kicked in to reduce the pain intensity of that contraction.
This, however, is not set in stone as contractions may be unpredictable. The thing with nitrous oxide is that its action quickly wears off once you take off the face mask, so the aim is to keep your face mask on for as long as possible.
In all, your OBGYN or Midwife will teach you how to use it for the best labor experience free of excruciating pain.
Does Nitrous Oxide Make You Laugh Uncontrollably?
Nitrous oxide, despite being called the laughing gas, does not necessarily make you laugh uncontrollably. I know what you’re thinking. I also thought it would make me laugh like crazy too, but it doesn’t. Nitrous oxide works by slowing down your nervous system, giving you a sense of euphoria, drowsiness and even causes you to giggle a little, but it doesn’t make you laugh uncontrollably.
For some moms, this may come as a relief cause labor is serious business, and having this uncontrollable urge to laugh because of your pain meds may just feel out of place and uncomfortable for you.
Benefits of Using Nitrous Oxide
Nitrous oxide is a great pain relief option for pregnant moms going through labor. Some benefits of using nitrous oxide during labor include:
No need for needles
I’m personally not a fan of needles and injections, and if you’re like me, nitrous oxide will be on the top of your pain relief list. With nitrous oxide, all you’ve got to do is put on your face mask and breathe in the meds. Unlike other labor pain meds like the epidural, you do not need to go through the trauma of needles.
Can be self-administered
A lot of moms have expressed to me in the past that feeling in control helped make their labor experience better. With nitrous oxide, you can self-administer this medication and even choose how frequently you take the gas. This helps you feel more in control as you determine your medication intake.
Does not limit your mobility
Unlike other labor pain meds like the epidural, nitrous oxide does not require that you stay at one place in a particular position. You are free to walk around with your face mask which can help facilitate the progress of your labor.
Helps with anxiety
Nitrous oxide works by depressing your nervous system which may make you feel giddy and lessen anxiety. This is great for new moms or moms who have had terrible past labor experiences to cool off and feel better relaxed during their labor process.
Does not affect breastfeeding
Nitrous oxide does not affect your breastmilk and as such does not obstruct breastfeeding in any way.
Cons of Using Nitrous Oxide
Nitrous oxide, as amazing as it sounds, is not ideal for every woman and it is important to note both the pros and cons before making your decision. Cons of using nitrous oxide for labor pain relief includes:
Can be difficult to administer over time
Labor can be a slow process carrying on for several hours. Over time, you may be discouraged and tired from holding your face mask. This may become an inconvenience to you as your labor progresses.
Pain relief may not be adequate
Nitrous oxide works to dull pain and reduce your perception of that pain. However, its pain-relieving effects are not long lasting and may not be adequate as some women may still feel the pain more than they would like. Nitrous oxide has lesser pain-relieving effects compared to other labor pain relief medications like epidural.
Is excreted via the lungs
Nitrous oxide is a gas and as such is excreted via the lungs, making this pain relief option unsuitable for women with respiratory conditions such as airway obstruction, severe asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Side Effects of Nitrous Oxide
Like any drug, nitrous oxide has side effects that you should watch out for. Side effects of nitrous oxide include:
- Feeling of nausea
- Being disoriented. This is like not knowing where you are or what time of the day it is.
- Uncontrolled movements
- Blurred vision
- Feeling giddy and euphoric
Be sure to let your healthcare provider know when you feel any of these side effects or if you feel any form of discomfort during the process.
Labor is that phase of pregnancy where it’s time to meet your little one after all those months of waiting and developing in your womb. The process of labor comes with a cocktail of excitement, anxiety and of course, pain, which is a concern among most new moms I have come across in practice.
Choosing the right pain relief method for labor comes with lots of consideration including convenience, safety and effectiveness. Nitrous oxide is a safe pain relief method you could consider for labor. In all, no two pregnancies are exactly the same and discussing with your doctor to know the best pain relief for you is key to achieving the best labor experience possible.
Nancy M.D. is a health practitioner, pediatrician and medical writer, who is dedicated to fostering awareness, and lending a helping hand to humanity at large.