Giving birth has never been so funny! At least not until now. Several hospitals and midwives across the country have been offering nitrous oxide (better known as laughing gas) to women in labor who wish to take the edge off of painful and difficult contractions. The drug had been used for birth prior to the 1950s, but was replaced by more invasive options such as the epidural. Most people are probably accustomed to getting laughing gas at the dentist, but not while in labor.
Now more than ever, women are seeking ways to have more control when giving birth. While the epidural is usually the prime choice for pain management, some women don’t like how limiting it is (it numbs all sensation below the waist), or how invasive it is (it has to be administered near the spinal cord).
Nitrous oxide has continued to be used regularly in Europe for labor pain, so there’s data that shows it’s safe, especially in smaller doses. It doesn’t reduce pain, like an epidural. Rather, it induces a sense of euphoria or relaxation.
“It does pass the placenta and go into the fetal circulation, but as soon as the baby takes a breath or two, it’s gone,” Rooks says.
It is important to be completely informed of the risks associated with any drug, but it seems that nitrous oxide might be a viable option for many women giving birth. Check to see if your hospital or birthing center offers the option, which can be hundreds or thousands of dollars cheaper than an epidural.