Nitrous oxide for pain relief during labour – Is it safe?

As you may know by now, childbirth is going to be a relatively painful experience, but the response to it varies from woman to woman. It is for this very reason that you should be aware of the childbirth pain relief options available to you. Some women are eager to avoid medical intervention through pain killers, while others will happily consider the most potent option. There are many drug free alternatives to managing labour pains, but your medical childbirth pain relief options typically include nitrous oxide, pethidine or an epidural.

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Epidurals are by far one of the most popular childbirth pain relief options, but they do come with a potential series of side effects. While this might be the popular choice, not all women want such strong medication. Nitrous oxide offers the perfect solution for expecting mummies who’d just like to take the edge off; you will still feel pain during your labour, but it is tamed down. The option is appealing to women because it allows them to control their own pain relief.

Childbirth pain relief options – what is nitrous oxide?

You might have heard of it before in your dentist’s office. Nitrous oxide is nothing more than laughing gas, and when mixed with oxygen, it has proved beneficial to mothers in labour. You will breathe the gas through a mask the moment your contractions start, since it only takes a few seconds to work.

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The concentration of nitrous oxide you will receive varies between 30 to 70%, depending on the strength of your contractions. To get the most out of it, you need to inhale from the mouthpiece at the beginning of a contraction straight through until it passes. Once it gets into your lungs, it enters the blood stream in a matter of seconds before it reaches your brain, where it manages pain to a varying degree. Based on a report in the Cochrane Library, nitrous oxide was tied to lower pain intensity on a 100 point scale. Other women have reported that while the gas did not relieve pain too much, the effects made them not care too much about it.

Unlike other medical childbirth pain relief options, nitrous oxide can be administered at any time during your labour, but is usually given during the transition phase. Should you feel that you need additional support, your nurse can administer a shot of pethidine as well.

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Is nitrous oxide a safe alternative?

Find out the pros and cons of this as one of your childbirth pain relief options on the next page…