Almost three years ago, the Charlotte area was introduced to Nitrous Oxide for pain management for people in labor.
The change comes as a part of a broader movement across the country of patients asking for this effective and low-risk tool that is popular in the UK.
Laboring people have been advocating for its use, and hospitals have started to add the pain management option with more frequency since 2014.
Even though the pain management tool has been around for almost three years in Charlotte, there are still questions as those outside the birth community are introduced to it outside of a dentist’s office.
The Nitrous used in labor is a different mixture than what dentists use for dental work. When your dentist uses Nitrous Oxide, it is a 70/30 mix of Nitrous and Oxygen – and it is typically flowing and used continuously for the length of a procedure.
In labor, the Nitrous Oxide is diluted by half with Oxygen, as a 50/50 mix. Instead of a continuous stream, it is distributed by a hand-held cannula or mouth tube, the laboring person has to bring to the face and draw in a breath actively. Nitrous Oxide use in labor is used sporadically as a way for people to take an active role in administering pain relief in the way that feels best for each contraction and personal need.
Typically, a laboring person will take a few breaths before a contraction starts, to have the relief on board at the height of the contraction. Then, with a few breaths away from the canula, the Nitrous Oxide is quickly removed from the bloodstream. This fast-acting, and fast short life of the gas is a huge benefit of its use. Nitrous Oxide does cross the placenta, but leaves quickly and does not interfere with the natural production of oxytocin, meaning a baby can be alert and bonding during the golden hour after birth.
Some Quick Facts About Nitrous Oxide:
- No additional IV needed
- Nitrous oxide can be administered by the labor and delivery nurse, making it extremely easy and fast if a patient chooses to use this pain relief option.
- The range of benefit for the person taking Nitrous is anywhere from feeling nothing to feeling everything – most identify still feeling contractions, but not caring they exist
- For many, they share feeling less anxious during or scared
- If you have a vitamin B12 deficiency or cannot hold the mask to your face, you are not a good candidate for Nitrous Oxide