Some Moms are Using Laughing Gas Instead of Epidurals During Labor & Childbirth

The thought of laughing the pain away is easier said than done -- especially when you're trying to push out a baby. This is one of the many reasons why medical professionals look for ways to provide pain relief that will hopefully make your labor and delivery experience more enjoyable (if there is such a thing). While it's not a common practice, some hospitals now provide laboring moms laughing gas that might have you asking if it's a good move.


Emerson Hospital in Massachusetts is one of 19 hospitals in the country (and counting) that offer laughing gas to their patients. It's also estimated that at least 14 birthing centers have this form of pain management readily available.

There is one fact that deserves a mention: Laughing gas was used back in the day (I'm talking times of horse and buggy) to help moms deliver their babies. It wasn't until the mid-1980s that it left hospitals faster than McDreamy on Grey's Anatomy. From the sound of things, there are no crazy risks associated with taking "nasal shots" of nitrous oxide, which could explain why half or more of expecting mamas in places like Canada and the U.K. opt for it. 

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In case you're wondering, the laughing gas in question is the nitrous oxide commonly used when you see the dentist. While the concept appears to be similar (inhale and prepare for good vibrations -- like feeling more relaxed), medical experts are quick to point out it won't be the same experience you would have filling a cavity. Still, it's important to point out common nitrous oxide side effects that can include dizziness, drowsiness, and feeling queasy.

One reason why people sing praises of laughing gas is because it doesn't stay in your body like an epidural, or other forms of pain medication. In fact, experts say moms can "rid themselves of gas" simply by removing the face mask, which sounds like a plus in my book if you're no longer feeling it (literally).

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So you're probably asking yourself what's the big deal if moms across the world are using it, right?

Honestly, you would need to take me to dinner so we could have more time to go down the list of speculations medical experts seem to have about laughing gas. Most do point out it's safe for mommies to use, but of course, there are a few who think it will have long-term effects on a child after birth.

That leaves us with the most important question you'll likely have: How effective is this laughing gas and will it take all the pain away?

While administration (don't I sound scientific?) of nitrous oxide is similar to dental practices (you know, face masks and stuff), the dosage is not. For the most part, moms would get this gas as a half-and-half cocktail, if you will, of nitrous and oxygen that can't be changed (you have a bit more leeway in the dental chair). Some might be fine with this, while others believe it doesn't deliver that same umph an epidural does. Bottom line, you can't scream "give me more juice!" and expect an extra hit.

More from The Stir: Laughing Gas During Labor? Yes, Please!

Another area of debate is who will deliver the nitrous oxide. Some believe midwives are OK to do it, while others think it should come from the anesthesiologists -- that could add to your hospital bill. Did I mention that laughing gas is a low-cost form of pain management (some birth centers charge $15)?

Even though the jury is still out on whether or not this will make a comeback, at least professionals are discussing it as an option.


Image via © Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images/Corbis

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