Laughing gas is usually an option for labour pain management, but in the U.S., it's not an option that many mothers-to-be choose. In this article, we'll explore why that might be.
For expecting mothers, there's a list of medications to relieve pain associated with labour: epidurals, spinal blocks, Demerol, and there's even nitrous oxide, also known as "laughing gas"- the odourless, colourless gas that is applied with a mask and often causes patients to literally laugh or giggle when initially applied hence the funny name.
According to Parents.com, Canada, Australia, the U.K. as well as the rest of Europe have embraced laughing gas as the go-to pain relief source for labour pain for generations. Dr. Jennifer Butt, who is an ob-gyn at Upper East Side Obstetrics & Gynecology, told Parents.com that it was also widely accepted in America until the '70s when epidurals became the primary labour pain management tactic.
The pros of laughing gas are that it is considered self-administered, meaning that the patient can position the mask over her nose and mouth depending on how and when she would like. It also generally has a low cost, fewer side effects, and (maybe best of all) is known for its speed - pain relief typically arrives within 30 to 50 seconds with laughing gas.
While those reasons might make it seem like the perfect choice, there are some cons which might be the reason that laughing gas is no longer very popular in America. Unlike the more popular epidural which works by numbing the body below the injection site, laughing gas isn't as effective. It doesn't completely block out the pain the way the epidural does. Laughing gas works instead by making everything feel less painful and helps to make the body feel relaxed overall.
Though the effects of laughing gas go to work straight away, it's very important that it's timed properly with the contractions. This can complicate matters and may just be another reason why a mother-to-be would pass on laughing gas for her choice of labour pain relief.
Another issue is one that concerns the hospital staff. Since laughing gas is self-administered, if the patient breathes outside of the mask instead into it, the nitrous oxide is released into the air which will cause the staff to inhale it which may cause short-term behavioural and even long-term reproductive health effects on the staff. If the patient properly breathes into the mask and proper ventilation is provided, this will help to reduce or eliminate that risk.
What do you think about laughing gas as an option after reading this? Let us know in the comments!