The Minnesota Birth Center is excited to announce that we are offering self-administered nitrous oxide for pain relief in labor. As fans of “Call the Midwife” on PBS have learned, nitrous oxide is used around the world for pain control in labor and is slowly being re-introduced in the USA. Nitrous oxide has a long history of safety for mothers and babies. The World Health Organization (WHO) lists nitrous as one of the hundred most essential medications. MBC’s new director, Kerry Dixon, CNM, CPM, has experience using nitrous oxide for laboring mothers in New Zealand, where it has been used for more than 50 years. Nitrous oxide is available at our Minneapolis location and will also offered at our newest birth center opening in St Paul in April. For further questions, please contact Minnesota Birth Center at 612-545-5311 or visit our website.
For more information on Nitrous Oxide, read the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) position statement.
FAQs About Nitrous Oxide or “Laughing Gas” in Labor
-What is it exactly? Nitrous oxide use is a mixture of 50% nitrous-oxide gas and 50% oxygen that is inhaled through a self administered mask or a mouthpiece.
-I think I have heard of it? Nitrous is more well known for use in dental offices, or pre-op for surgeries, especially in pediatrics like at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. Most people identify of it as “laughing gas.”
– Did you know? Nitrous is the most commonly used pain relief for labor in the developed world including in: Canada, UK, Scandinavia, Australia and New Zealand. In the countries listed it is used by 40-60% of all laboring women.
– How does it work? You hold your own mask or mouthpiece and begin to inhale the gas mixture about 30 seconds before a contraction begins. Starting to inhale before a contraction begins helps the gas to reach its peak effect at about the same time as the contraction reaches its peak, providing the greatest relief. This way you determine how much or how often you need to use nitrous for pain relief.
– Will the midwives or nurses be administering nitrous? No; different from dental or pre-op; the nitrous is self administered by the laboring woman, who breathes it in when she feels the need. Once you decide you want to use it, your provider will prescribe it. Then the provider or nurse will come to your room, set it up, and review how to use it.
– Does it have any side effects? Some women have reported nausea after prolonged use; medication to help ease the nausea is available if that happens. It can also cause some unsteadiness with movement, which is why there should always be a family member or staff person in the room, in case you need assistance.
– Can I still be out bed and use nitrous? 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 fact, you are encouraged to find a position that works for you!
–Can I be in the waterbirth pool or on a birth ball and still use nitrous? Yes; as long as you do not feel dizzy it is acceptable to use this way.
– Is there any extra monitoring required? No; if you are eligible to have intermittent fetal monitoring, no extra monitoring required while nitrous oxide is being used.
– Can I use nitrous and have intravenous narcotics at the same time? No, the combination of narcotics and nitrous can slow your breathing so they would not be used together.
– Are there any reasons I could not use it? Yes: you cannot use it if you:
1) cannot hold your own facemask or mouthpiece;
2) have received a dose of narcotic in the past 2 hours;
3) have a B12 deficiency for which you take B12 supplements;
4) have one of a very few other rare medical conditions.
– Are there any effects on baby? 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 stop breathing it in, the nitrous effect is gone within a breath or two.
– What other procedures could I use nitrous oxide with? During the repair of a laceration, or during an uncommon, but painful treatment, of the manual removal of your placenta. Also, in some facilities nitrous can be used during blood draws or IV placement.
– While there is still a limited number of hospitals and birth centers in the USA that offer this option for pain relief to laboring women, we anticipate this to change as consumers and providers become aware of this safe, low-cost, effective choice! We are so happy that the Minnesota Birth Center is one of the leaders in Minnesota offering this to women who choose our service.