Jennifer Meyers, C.N.M.
Midwifery, Obstetrics & Gynecology (OB-GYN)
Increasing numbers of expectant moms are requesting nitrous oxide for pain relief during childbirth. The answers to these common questions may help you decide if this comfort measure is right for you.
What is nitrous oxide?
Nitrous oxide is an odorless, tasteless gas. It sometimes is referred to as laughing gas, because you can feel a little lightheaded or silly while you are using it.
How does nitrous oxide work to relieve pain during labor?
Nitrous oxide is mixed with oxygen and inhaled through a hand-held face mask. Its effects are felt within a minute. You hold the mask so you can decide when to use it and how much you need to ease pain during contractions.
How much does nitrous oxide help with labor pain?
Nitrous oxide relaxes the central nervous system to dull the perception of pain, but does not completely block it. Some women describe it as “taking the edge off.” It can help you relax and lessen your anxiety. Nitrous can be a good alternative for women who are looking for a less-invasive alternative to an epidural.
Does nitrous oxide have any lasting effects?
Nitrous oxide is safe for mom and baby, and will not cause any lasting effects. As soon as you pull the mask away, the effect of breathing the gas is gone within a few breaths.
Do I have to choose between using nitrous oxide or having an epidural?
No. You may choose to use nitrous oxide first and then move to a different type of pain relief, such as an epidural, later in labor.
If you are interested in using nitrous oxide for pain management during labor, talk with your obstetric provider.