Best Start Birth Center is now offering nitrous oxide as a pain reduction method during labor! Our midwives have been conducting a study on the use of nitrous oxide and clients have had excellent outcomes at Best Start.
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.
Nitrous oxide is a 50/50 mixture of nitrous gas and oxygen, 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. Best Start’s own patients that have used nitrous oxide report pain reduction. In some cases, such as during long, difficult labors, it can help mothers avoid hospital transfers.
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. 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. 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.
Nitrous oxide is self-administered through a mask or mouthpiece, so using nitrous oxide is as simple as holding the mask/mouthpiece 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 too. After birth, infants quickly eliminate any remaining nitrous oxide present in their systems by breathing.
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.
While nitrous oxide is a great option for some mothers, it is not right for everyone. There are some eligibility requirements for your own safety. For example, if you have a B12 deficiency, have had a recent middle ear infection or surgery, or are unable to hold your own mask, you may not be able to use nitrous oxide. If you are interested in nitrous oxide, your midwife will review your personal health history to see if it is a safe option for you.
Best Start Birth Center remains committed to offering mothers safe, noninvasive pain reduction methods and is happy to include nitrous oxide as an option!