Expecting mothers are often only given three options for pain relief during labor — intravenous narcotics, an epidural or nothing at all — but there is another option: nitrous oxide.
Most people know nitrous oxide as the laughing gas administered in their dentist’s office, but other countries such as Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and Finland have used it as an analgesic during labor for over a century.
While a few university hospitals in the United States have offered nitrous as a form of pain relief for some time now, only recently has it become a more widespread option. Longmont United Hospital , for example, just started to offer it on Monday.
Non-addictive laughing gas can effectively dull the pain of giving birth and leaves a person’s system so fast it doesn’t have any effect on the mother’s or child’s health, according to the American College of Nurse-Midwives.
“It’s a very nice adjuvant between going completely natural and using an epidural,” said Dr. Jennifer Blattner, an OB/GYN for Boulder Medical Center. “I’ve seen a lot of women get through the whole labor course with just nitrous. You can also use it after the baby comes out and there’s a drop in adrenaline, but you still have to deliver the placenta or have a complicated vaginal repair, it’s nice to use for extra pain relief.”
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