Awards & Recognition
Board of Directors
Dignity Health Hospital Executives
Mission, Vision & Values
Serving the Community
For Physicians & Residents
What is nitrous oxide and how is it used for labor?
Nitrous oxide is known by most people as “laughing gas” and has been used safely for years in other states and countries. For labor pain, nitrous oxide (50%) is mixed with oxygen (50%) then breathed through a mask or mouthpiece to relieve pain and anxiety. Nitrous oxide is a non-opioid option that can replace narcotic medications commonly used for pain.
Why use nitrous oxide while in labor?
How much does nitrous oxide help with labor pain?
The pain relieving effect of nitrous oxide varies. For most moms, nitrous oxide takes effect within seconds and offers immediate relief of pain and anxiety. Some women say it helps “take the edge off” of the peak of contractions so they are better able to cope with the labor pain. Other women experience stronger pain relief.
How do I use nitrous oxide?
Nitrous oxide must be ordered by your physician. You hold your own mask, so you decide when to use it and how much you need. You start to breathe in the gas about 30 seconds before a contraction begins. (Starting to breathe the gas before a contraction begins helps the gas work best about the same time the contraction reaches its peak, so you can get the greatest amount of relief). You can put the mask or mouthpiece down between contractions and use it on and off as you choose. Your nurse will guide you and supervise your positioning and movement.
Do I have to choose between using nitrous oxide or having an epidural?
No. Usually, the epidural and nitrous are not used at the same time. Some women use nitrous oxide before they have an epidural. You may choose to use only nitrous oxide or you may choose to use nitrous oxide first, then move on to other methods of pain relief in labor.
Will nitrous oxide affect my baby?
No. Nitrous oxide is the only method of pain relief used for labor that is cleared from your body through your lungs. As soon as you pull the mask away, the effects of breathing the gas are gone in a few seconds.
Does nitrous oxide have any side effects?
Some women experience nausea, though this can be relieved by taking a few deep breaths without using the mask. There is a chance that you can pass out for a minute if you breathe in too much gas. This is why you are the only person that can control the amount of gas you receive. If you start to get sleepy, your hand will slip away from the mask. This protects you from taking in too much gas.
Interested in using nitrous oxide while you’re in labor? Talk with your doctor about nitrous oxide to determine if it is an appropriate option to help you manage pain and anxiety in labor.
Register now for a Birth Center tour!