Nitrous oxide... is it worthy of all the hype?

nitrous oxide birth center

Nitrous oxide is becoming increasingly more popular in the United States as an alternative to the epidural. And for good reason! Nitrous oxide is a very safe, relatively cheap, and effective pain reliever, and we have a lot of evidence on its use. It has been popular for decades in countries that have very good maternal and neonatal health outcomes, such as Canada, Sweden, Finland, and the United Kingdom, and is an important component of quality maternity care.

Nitrous oxide is a gas that is inhaled by mask and is self-administered by the mother. 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. It is a great anxiety-reliever.

Nitrous oxide does not affect the production of oxytocin or the natural progression of labor. It does not increase the probability of other interventions. It also does not affect the baby, and does not increase the need for resuscitation after the birth.

The main side effects caused by nitrous oxide may be slight dizziness, nausea, and sometimes vomiting. But because it is self-administered, a woman may discontinue use of nitrous oxide at any time, and the effects of the gas dissipate within about 5 minutes.