The Birth Center and Neonatal Care Center at Anna Jaques Hospital is now offering nitrous oxide (also known as laughing gas) as an option for pain management during labor and delivery. This method, which is a traditional way to manage pain, offers mothers a fast-acting and safe alternative that does not affect the normal progression of labor.
Nitrous oxide offers many benefits to mothers. It is self-administered so not only can a woman decide how much to use, she can also decide if she wants to stop using it and try another method of pain relief instead. The option can easily be discontinued and its effects disappear within five minutes after cessation.
In the doses given during labor, nitrous oxide is not a strong analgesic. Women who use nitrous oxide during labor may still have an awareness of labor pain. However, many women find it helps them relax and decreases their perception of labor pain.
Nitrous oxide is a desirable option for women who:
- Struggle with anxiety
- Have a fear of needles or prefer to avoid strong pain medications
- Arrive to the hospital too late to receive an epidural
Nitrous oxide does not affect infant alertness during the early bonding period between a mother and her newborn. It also does not affect breastfeeding.